NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After coming within a game of reaching the Super Bowl last season, the Tennessee Titans are searching for what could put them over the top -- and finding more ways to disrupt opposing quarterbacks could be it. The Titans' 43 regular-season sacks last season tied them for 13th in the NFL.
Here are realistic options general manager Jon Robinson could consider to help make the Titans a more dangerous pass-rushing team:
The free-agent addition
Markus Golden, outside linebacker/defensive end
Pairing the 28-year-old Golden with third-year outside linebacker Harold Landry would give the Titans a potent duo on the edge and provide much-needed veteran leadership. Golden had 77 pass rushes in which he got the first pressure (12th in the NFL) last season for the New York Giants. Landry finished 13th with 76 first-pressure rushes. Golden produced 10 sacks, 27 QB hits and 13 tackles for loss.
The Giants used Golden on inside stunts in addition to allowing him to attack the passer from the edge. Golden uses his heavy hands and powerful body to aggressively set the edge in both standup and hand-in-the-dirt stances. That offers scheme flexibility so he can become a defensive end in sub-packages when the Titans want to beef up their pass defense.
Golden is no stranger to making plays against the run, as shown by his 72 tackles last season, of which 37 were solo efforts.
My understanding is #Giants LB Markus Golden has interest in returning to the #Giants, but will also endeavor to test free agency because of relative time to the start of the new league year, as of now, per source. Golden recorded 10 sacks last season for the #Giants.— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 5, 2020
Titans coach Mike Vrabel values versatile, high-motor edge defenders for his defense, and Golden matches that description. Tennessee was interested in 2019 free-agent pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith, but the four-year, $66 million contract he signed with the Green Bay Packers was more than the Titans wanted to pay. The Titans can get a player in Golden who is similar to Smith but should be less expensive. Golden has an equivalent body of work when considering his 2016 season in which he posted 12.5 sacks, 22 QB hits and 12 tackles for loss.
The in-house free agent to re-sign
Kamalei Correa, outside linebacker
Correa, 25, came on strong toward the end of the 2019 season. He finished with five sacks and added two more during the postseason. Correa posted sacks in six of his final eight games last season. Vrabel was very complimentary of Correa when he spoke about the pending free agent at the NFL combine last month.
"I always appreciated his effort," Vrabel said. "Guys that play hard for our football team and play with a great effort and finish, we are going to try and find places for. He always wanted to make plays and do well. We talked to him about doing his job and making the plays that he was supposed to make and that would be plenty. He did that down the stretch, and I was proud of him -- how he played and his toughness. It wasn't perfect, but I can always count on great effort from Kamalei."
Bringing Correa back shouldn't be difficult for the Titans. He really settled in as an outside linebacker with Tennessee after initially being miscast as an inside linebacker when he started his career with the Baltimore Ravens. Bringing Correa back would give the Titans a veteran rotational player who can continue to be called upon to provide a boost to the defense.
The draft pick
Jonathan Greenard, outside linebacker/defensive end
The Titans waited until the fifth round of the 2019 draft to add a pass-rusher when they selected D'Andre Walker with the 168th pick. They'll likely add a disruptive player earlier this year. Greenard is a prospect the Titans seem to like and should be there for them in the second round. The Titans met with the former Gator at the Senior Bowl and the combine.
Greenard has the ability to bend coming off the edge to win the leverage battle. At 6-foot-2, it's easier to get under offensive linemen and drive them back to the quarterback. That's something Greenard said he learned from former NFL pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil before transferring from Louisville. Getting a jump off the ball is one of Greenard's best attributes and it allows him to use his power.
"I love to showcase how I have a good get-off," Greenard said. "That threatens the tackles to open their hips more so I can get a counter inside move. I like to keep them on their toes. I can switch it up and give them power a little bit. If you look at my film, you would expect me to speed rush, but I'm 262 pounds, so I want to use that as well."
Toughness is another attribute that should appeal to the Titans. Greenard dealt with a wrist injury last season but continued to be a balanced edge defender who got after the quarterback and didn't give up contain against the run often. He transferred from Louisville to Florida and finished as a first-team All-SEC selection after leading the Gators with 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 12 starts. He also posted 52 total tackles, an interception, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles.