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Reading the Tea Leaves: Insight from GM Mike Reinfeldt

Floyd Reese was GM of the Oilers/Titans for over a dozen years. Like him or not (I did, mostly), respect him or not (I did), by the end of his tenure, he was relatively easy to predict. Mike Reinfeldt has less of a track record as the final decision-maker, so what the Titans would do entering free agency was more of a question mark. We’ve seen some partial results from that already, and there’s even more to write about. Specifically, the man himself gave a talk this past week to the Nashville Rotary Club, and a transcript of his comments was posted on the official site. I recommend you read it in full, because it’s incredibly enlightening and a rare glimpse into the normally closed world of “what an NFL GM is thinking.” What follows are my thoughts on some of his more interesting points.

To answer the biggest question of late, why the Titans haven’t been active in free agency, Reinfeldt’s first answer is very clear: an NFL team is built around 10-12 “special guys,” and those are the types of guys you generally are not able to find in free agency. Even when those guys do appear as free agents, there tends to be a reason their old team didn’t re-sign them. Randy Moss is a name Reinfeldt mentioned in his regard; while the Patriots did re-sign him eventually, he did hit the market, and whether or not he’ll be happy and productive for your team like he was for the Pats last year was something teams had to address. The other free agents, by and large, may have been good to very good players, but were generally not part of the corps of “special guys” that makes a team go.

Running back is a position Reinfeldt said the Titans would like to address in free agency, specifically third down back, somebody to run screens or draws. Let’s call this person Not Chris Brown.

VY will be turned loose in 2008. In 2007, he got away from what he does best, moving around and creating opportunities. Not great insight, but it’s nice to hear official agreement with what we all knew.

He’s looking to sign both Stewart and Roos to long-term deals this summer. Getting Roos locked up long-term was actually my #1 priority entering the offseason, and it’s nice to hear this is a team goal.

Also on the offensive line, it feels like they want Benji Olson to retire, or at least wouldn’t mind if he did. When Mawae signed, I actually targeted this as the year he might retire, but they expect him back and AFAIK he’s made no hints that he isn’t planning on being back. I still need to do some tape work on the OL late in the year, but I thought Amano played better than Mawae did.

Now that free agency is underway a little, the next big event is the draft. There are three positions Reinfeldt sees as being very deep: defensive end, offensive tackle, and running back. Linebackers and safety are positions that are thin. His comments solidify my expectation that the Titans will be looking to use their first round draft pick on a defensive end (think opening depth chart of KVB, 1st round pick/Calais Campbell?, Kearse, Ford/Conover?).

A “what to believe” issue… as has been reported, the Titans brought ex-Pats S Eugene Wilson in for a visit. They just drafted Michael Griffin at safety, and also had Chris Hope. Reinfeldt said Hope is recovering well and will be taking part in minicamps. With two decent safeties, why do you want Wilson? Might this mean a return to the Griffin at corner experiment?

There’s more in the interview, but those are the highlights from my end.