NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Monty Rice, meet Rashaan Evans.

Evans, the 23rd pick in the 2018 draft, seems to be nearing the end of his Tennessee tenure. The team should decline his fifth-year option of $9.735 million by the May 3 deadline, which would mean he’d be entering the final year of his rookie deal this fall.georgia rice monty 3

Courtesy Georgia Athletics

He’s not multi-dimensional and barring an unexpected, dramatic turnaround, the Titans need to find a cheaper replacement who offers more than great goal-line and short-yardage play.

Still, Mike Vrabel said Friday night he’s extremely confident and comfortable with Evans, who’s excited about modifications the Titans are making to his inside linebacker spot.

But barring something crazy from Evans, Rice is depth now and something more later. And to heard Vrabel and Jon Robinson talk about his leadership, well, it’s not hard to imagine their long-term vision.

Vrabel said he was repeatedly drawn to Rice on film even when he didn’t turn it on to watch the Georgia linebacker.

“He kept showing up, kept making plays,” Vrabel said. “When we talked with him, got to know him, this is a confident player who was willing to lead inside and was productive.”

Dane Brugler says the 6-foot, 233-pound Rice is “as physical as any linebacker in the draft class and seeks out contact.”

Rice said he played in the most complex defense in college football at Georgia so he’s ready for whatever is ahead of him with the Titans.

“Rice is solid,” said Blake Beddingfield, the former Titans' scout who is a regular contributor here. “Not as physical as Evans. Doesn’t lack physicality, but that is Evans' best trait. Same speed. Same-type coverage player. Solid but not dynamic.”

Analyst Matt Miller raves about Rice’s leadership qualities, which is something the Titans definitely need to add.

I’m a bit confused by the repetitive nature here. Rice is the 92nd pick, not the 23rd. A replacement for Evans is a need, though not as pressing as receiver, tight end or edge. But why grab someone who seems like an updated version of the guy who's disappointed?

The Titans must see an opportunity to develop Rice in a way that simply has not materialized with Evans.

“Did not show the kind of inside-out, sideline-to-sideline speed and range you ideally want from stacked LB,” Greg Cosell of NFL Films wrote for Fantasy Points regarding Rice. “…Even if teams feel Rice can be effective as a box LB in the run game and play in the base defense, he will not be part of any sub defenses, and that significantly limits his value in today's NFL.”apple icon 144x144 precomposed

But Daniel Jeremiah said on NFL Network (per Jim Wyatt) that Rice is quick and athletic and “very aware in coverage.”

Rice called himself a three-down linebacker.

In the third round, I’d certainly hope for an eventual full-time player.

While looking forward to the energy and impact, we’ll have to see for ourselves how good he is against tight ends and backs running routes.

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