By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special contributor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans had a very solid unit in 2017 with the best left tackle in the NFL in Taylor Lewan.

In 2018, the team changed offensive line coaches from Russ Grimm to Keith Carter. The team also switched to a zone blocking scheme and went away from their strength and personnel skills. Lewan can function and play in any system, but some players are brought in and only fit in some schemes.Saffold1

(Photo courtesy Los Angeles Rams)

The Titans signed veteran guard Rodger Saffold to fill the left guard position vacated by Quentin Spain. Spain is a very similar player in size, frame and strength. I was a big backer of Spain. He was a better foot athlete but Saffold is better with his technique and hand use. The Titans decided to go with an older player instead of re-signing Spain.

Center Ben Jones is an overachiever athletically and has to win with proper technique and fundamentals. Jones is a leader of the group, but his skills have diminished over the past year.

Right tackle is tricky. Former top 10 draft choice Jack Conklin was the second-best RT on the team last year. Dennis Kelly was more consistent and played at a solid starter level last season. While Rodger Saffold has been brought in to play left guard, Josh Kline is out as the right guard. It could make the most sense to utilize Conklin there in 2019. 

But this is where the business side comes into play.cold beer ent 300x300

Conklin is going into the last year of his rookie contract and the Titans must decide on his fifth-year option. His agent will want tackle money and not guard dollars. Moving forward Conklin will want to be a tackle in free agency. The fifth-year option pays a player drafted in the top 10 of the draft the average of the top 10 salaries for that position, and with offensive linemen, it's the top 10 offensive linemen, it's not broken down into tackles, guards and centers.

Ultimately, tackles make more than guards, though they are all lumped together for this mechanism. This is a very important feature when drafting in the top 10. You must draft a player that plays a high level or a premium position to maximize his value going into the fifth year. Drafting a right tackle is not premium, Conklin is a solid starter in the NFL but never considered elite.

Other players drafted in the Top 10 in 2016: Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa, Ezekial Elliott, Jalen Ramsey, Ronnie Stanley, Deforest Buckner, Leonard Floyd will all be considered elite positions or worth the money. No. 10 selection Eli Apple has already been traded and as a cornerback, he does have the position value but not the play value.

I expect the Titans to decline the fifth-year option and hope to sign Conklin to a reasonable contract.  I also expect Conklin to decline that offer and test free agency. If free-agent OT Trent Brown can be paid by the Raiders as the top-paid OT in history, Conklin will cash in.

Backup center/guard Corey Levin is just a solid interior OL backup and should not be considered a starter.

BeddingfieldLabelSo currently the Titans have six offensive linemen who are certain to make their team in 2019.

Tyler Marz has filled in at times, but an upgrade is needed. Aaron Stinnie was kept on the 53-man roster after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent.  Year 2 offseason development will prove whether he was worth that spot.

Even beyond Saffold and re-signed Kevin Pamphile, this position could get more attention in either free agency or the draft by the Titans.  

Free Agency:

G TJ Lang: Former Pro Bowl guard, will be 32 during 2019 season. Would be a good signing for two years.  He had a number of injuries in 2018 that need to be checked out. 

G Ted Karras: Short, adequate size, competitive player, but overachiever type ability. Similar to Kline and not an upgrade.  

G Jamon Brown: Good size, frame, strength, but not an upgrade over Spain. 

G Ben Garland: Former DT who converted to guard.  Tough, physical but hasn’t played a lot in the NFL.  Does have a connection to OL coach Keith Carter.

G Earl Watford: True zone blocking guard, has also played OT in the NFL.  Cheap signing to compete for the starting guard spot.

The tackles that could be brought in to be a backup are Jake Fisher, Josh Wells and Jordan Mills.  These players would compete for a backup roster spot only. But the Titans look to have made their choice by bringing back Kevin Pamphile.

Draft

ElgtonJenkinsC Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State: Good athlete, quickness, shows power, can play guard but an immediate starter at center. (Pictured.)

C Garrett Bradbury, NC State: Position flexible. His overall size will be the issue.  OL coaches will like his effort and intensity he plays with. He plays smart, quick and works hard in games viewed. Center only for me.  

G Cody Ford, Oklahoma: Guard/tackle prospect, big frame, strong, tough. Will go in first two rounds. Instant starter. Should be a solid player. Solid athlete for size, but also strong and powerful.

G Chris Linstrom, BC: Will be a starter at OG early in his career. Lacks the physically dominating skills but is a solid technician. Good hand use. Equal run and pass blocker. 

G/C Erik McCoy, Texas A&M: Good zone blocker. Quick. Can play multiple positions and start at either center or guard. Lacks top power and will struggle with powerful rushers. 

G/C Connor McGovern, Penn State: Good run blocker. Needs work on upper strength. Will be a backup then start in Year 2.  

G Nate Davis, Charlotte: Big, strong, raw player. An eventual starter but not Year 1. Needs work on his technique and moving to guard fulltime. 

G/C Michael Jordan, Ohio State: Solid but not special, better guard than center but shows the versatility. Good arm length, average footwork, good overall size and power.  

G Michael Deiter, Wisconsin: Tough, physical, good technique, but lacks top athletic ability, has some stiffness, can start and play but lacks 

G/T Alex Bars, Notre Dame: From Nashville, dealt with injury his senior season but could make a team as a two-position backup at G/T

G/C Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama: A four-yearr starter at Alabama, three years at guard and one at center. Would be a good backup and eventual starter.  

T/G Olisaemeka Udoh, Elon: Raw but talented. Has the ability to start in time, but not in his first year. A small school player that will take time to work on consistent technique and a more sophisticated offensive system, He is a RT with great size -- long arms, big hands, right tackle feet. He will not be a left tackle in the NFL. He could move inside to OG.

T/G Iosua Opeta, Weber State: Not an immediate starter in the NFL. Will take some time to move positions and learn the technique.  Still a young player on the offensive line and it shows at times, but I do like the skills set.  He has starter ability as a guard

T Dennis Daley, South Carolina: Left tackle for South Carolina, has the skills to line up at both tackles and also guard. I like his effort, intensity, skills, length, size. Needs refinement and better understanding of defensive fronts and games, but has an upside.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedA move of Conklin to guard would give the team five starters, an interior backup in Levin and a tackle backup in Pamphile.

But future starters need to be brought in through the draft at the guard and center positions.

The offensive line will be a major conversation this offseason because of contracts coming up in Conklin and Kelly and a player not earning his contracts in Jones.

It is important to find some younger options to Jones off the roster, if not now then next year when his deal is up. Left tackle, and now left guard given Saffold’s contract, are the only spots that are guaranteed moving forward.

***

Blake Beddingfield was a Titans' scout for 19 years, through the 2017 draft. He was the team's director of college scouting for his final six years. Follow him on Twitter at @BlakeBeddingfi1. He’s brought to you by Cold Beer Entertainment Group, featuring four great Midtown and Downtown bars: Winners, Losers, DawgHouse Saloon and Swinging Doors Saloon.

You are not authorised to post comments.

Comments powered by CComment

Paul Midday logo 2b 2