NASHVILLE -- There was a flurry of activity in the days and hours before the Tennessee Titans reported to their St. Thomas Park facility Friday (July 28) for training camp.
The team announced that seventh-year veteran defensive tackle Jurell Casey signed an extension when he showed up Friday. Casey, who had two years left on his contract, reportedly will receive up to $60.4 million over four years, with $40 million guaranteed.
"It is rare to do a contract extension early in this business," said Titans executive vice president/general manager Jon Robinson. "But Jurrell is a unique player in that he was drafted here, has already done an extension with the team, is a standout in our community, and has earned multiple Pro-Bowl invitations. We are happy to have him as a Titan for many years to come."
The Titans also signed outside linebacker Erik Walden, a 2008 sixth-round draft pick who led Indianapolis with 11 sacks and three forced fumbles last season.
The team waived undrafted free agent rookie linebacker Johnny Ragin and, more notably, guard Sebastian Tretola, five days after he suffered a gunshot wound in his leg/ankle area.
Tretola, a sixth-round draft pick last year, was released from the hospital Sunday, but was waived Friday with a non-football injury designation.
Tretola and Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe were accused of assaulting a man outside a Nashville bar in April, although no charges have been filed. The Titans also signed rookie offensive lineman Jake Simonich, who spent part of the offseason with the Texans.
TRAINING CAMP: Saint Thomas Sports Park; Nashville, Tenn.
COACH: Mike Mularkey
2nd full season with Titans
5th full season as NFL head coach
2016 finish: 2nd AFC South (9-7)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 358.0 (11th)
RUSHING: 136.7 (3rd)
PASSING: 221.3 (25th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 357.5 (20th)
RUSHING: 88.3 (2nd)
PASSING: 269.2 (30th)
2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE
All times Central
Aug. 12, at N.Y. Jets (Sat), 6:30
Aug. 19, CAROLINA (Sat), 2:00
Aug. 27, CHICAGO, 12:00
Aug. 31, at Kansas City (Thu), 7:30
UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS
Mariota is the clear-cut starter and face of the franchise. He is coming off a fractured fibula and will need camp and preseason to prove he is healthy. Cassel also is coming off an offseason thumb injury, but re-signed for two years. Tanney is out of practice-squad eligibility, while Ferguson has a strong arm, but is an extreme long shot.
Murray paced the AFC in rushing with 1,287 yards, and did so despite some nagging injuries in the second half of the year. As long as he is healthy and productive, Murray is the workhorse, but Henry showed he is capable of taking the load as well. Khalfani is a late-round pick, who could give the Titans a change-of-pace back (think Jacquizz Rodgers/Darren Sproles), if he sticks on the roster. Fowler is solid as the fullback.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, C Ben Jones, RG Josh Kline, RT Jack Conklin. Backups - C/G Tim Lelito, T Dennis Kelly, T Tyler Marz, G Corey Levin, G/T Josue Matias, C Mark Spielman, T Brad Seato, T Jonah Pirsig, T Steven Moore, G Jake Simonich.
The Titans return all five starters intact, including bookend tackles Lewan and Conklin, who have solidified the edges. Jones is solid in the middle and Spain was a nice find as an undrafted rookie from 2015. Kline came over from the Patriots on waivers and was plugged in when Chance Warmack was injured. His spot is the only starting job that could be challenged, but he is likely to hold onto it. The real fight will be for the backup spots, though Kelly and Lelito figure to have the inside track.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis. Backups - Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, Harry Douglas, Eric Weems, Tre McBride, Jonathan Krause, KeVon Mabon, Makale McCay, Darius Jennings, Giovanni Pascascio.
Matthews was a nice find as a free agent last year, catching 65 passes for 945 yards. Elsewhere, the Titans have upgraded, using the fifth pick overall on Davis and a third-rounder on Taylor. Latecomer Decker figures to jump right into the mix, given his past productivity, while the pecking order down the line figures to be Sharpe - a starter as a rookie a year ago - having an edge over veterans Douglas and Weems and special teamer McBride for the fifth receiver slot.
TIGHT ENDS: Starters - Delanie Walker, Phillip Supernaw. Backups - Jace Amaro, Jonnu Smith, Jermaine Cunningham, Tim Semisch.
Walker dropped from 94 receptions in 2015 to 65 catches last year, but he is still a key cog in the offense. The reason for the drop was two-fold. First the running game emerged, and second Rishard Matthews proved to be a reliable option at wide receiver, making the need to funnel every pass to Walker less necessary. The Titans will miss Anthony Fasano's blocking, but believe Supernaw can handle the role. Elsewhere, the club is high on third-round pick Smith. Amaro could find a role if his blocking improves, as he has already shown an ability to catch the football and make plays with it in his brief appearances last year.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE DaQuan Jones, NT Sylvester Williams, DRE Jurrell Casey. Backups - DE Karl Klug, DE Angelo Blackson, DE Mehdi Abdesmad, NT Antwaun Woods, NT Austin Johnson, NT DeAngelo Brown, DE Jimmy Staten, DE Cameron Robbins.
As deep a group as there is on the team, Casey leads with way, turning in a Pro-Bowl season in 2016 and getting a four-year extension as camp opened. Williams comes over from the Broncos to help fill the nose, but depth is good there with Johnson showing steady improvement in his rookie year, and Woods made a case for a roster spot with a strong late-season look. Jones continues to do solid work opposite Casey, while Klug, coming off an Achilles injury, is a fine role player. Blackson's opportunities lessened late in the year, but he is still capable. The Titans liked Abdesmad as a project player a year ago.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB Derrick Morgan, LILB Wesley Woodyard, RILB Avery Williamson, ROLB Brian Orakpo. Backups - ILB Jayon Brown, ILB Nate Palmer, OLB Erik Walden, OLB Josh Carraway, OLB Aaron Wallace, OLB Kevin Dodd, ILB Justin Staples, ILB Daren Bates, OLB Kourtnei Brown, OLB Victor Ochi.
Orakpo had 10.5 sacks and Morgan added nine more as the Titans showed a strong pass rush at times with that tandem. Walden, who led Indianapolis with 11 sacks last year, was a welcome addition who signed as camp opened. The wild card is Dodd, whose rookie season was lost due to a foot injury. He missed all the offseason work having a second surgery as well. That leaves Wallace and perhaps Carraway, a rookie seventh-rounder, as depth if Dodd doesn't pan out. On the inside, Williamson and Woodyard were competent players, especially vs. the run. In the nickel, the Titans will give Brown a look to displace Woodyard in the sub-package. Bates comes over from Oakland to join Palmer and Staples on special teams.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Logan Ryan, RCB Adoree' Jackson, SS Johnathan Cyprien, FS Kevin Byard. Backups - CB LeShaun Sims, S Da'Norris Searcy, CB Brice McCain, S Brynden Trawick, CB Kalan Reed, S Curtis Riley, CB D'Joun Smith, CB Demontre Hurst, CB Tye Smith, CB Manny Abad, CB Jeremy Boykins.
It was a complete makeover here in the offseason as Ryan and Cyprien were added to start as free agents, and Jackson comes in as a first-round pick. Byard figures to improve in year two, and the Titans hope Sims can as well. If he can supplant veteran McCain as the third corner, the Titans won't mind it. D'Joun Smith and Hurst could figure in as backup corners if they have a strong preseason.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Ryan Succop, P Brett Kern, KOR/PR Eric Weems, LS Beau Brinkley.
Succop missed just two field-goal attempts all season, and both of those were from 50-plus yards. His 53-yarder on the frozen field in Kansas City to upset the Chiefs was a season highlight. Kern did yeoman's work as the punter, and Brinkley was reliable. Right now, Weems, who was signed as a free agent, gets first crack on kickoff returns, while rookie Jackson hopes to add a dynamic element to the punt return game.