Why not Titans for Peppers?
Last year the contracts of LB Keith Bulluck and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch combined to count $15.6 million against the Titans’ salary cap. Their salary cap numbers ranked 1-2 on the team, with Bulluck at $9.1 million.
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No, the Titans have never been big players in the free-agency market. They’ve typically targeted mid-level veterans, players such as Chris Hope, Nick Harper and Nate Washington. But with the team highly unlikely to re-sign Bulluck and Vanden Bosch, both of whom are unrestricted free agents, wouldn’t it make sense for them to be a player in the Julius Peppers sweepstakes? Based on the departing salaries, the money is there to be a contender.
Everyone knows one of the Titans’ biggest offseason needs is at defensive end. Peppers, who has played all eight of his NFL seasons for the Carolina Panthers, recently turned 30, and while that age may be a death knell for a running back, it’s hardly the same for a DE. Hall of Famer Bruce Smith produced 10 seasons of 10 more sacks after hitting 30. Hall of Famer Reggie White had six 10-sack seasons after reaching 30. Kevin Greene had seven 10-sack seasons from 30 on.
If any team knows the dramatic impact a single great performer can have along the defensive line it should be the Titans. They simply weren’t the same after DT Albert Haynesworth departed via free agency before the 2009 season and signed with the Washington Redskins. How much better would young Titans linemen Tony Brown and William Hayes look with a pass-rusher the caliber of Peppers alongside them?
Peppers has 81 sacks in his eight seasons. Only Jason Taylor (88) and Dwight Freeney (84) have more during that span.
Think about what Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn did for Vanden Bosch’s career. KVB’s time in Arizona (second-round pick, 2001) was an injury-riddled mess. The Cardinals allowed him to leave as an unrestricted free agent, and the Titans signed him for the bargain basement price of less than $500,000 for the 2005 season. All he did was become a two-time Pro Bowler (2005, 2007) who started 74 of 80 regular-season games over the next five seasons.
Offenses would shutter at the thought of Peppers under the tutelage of Washburn. The two of them together would significantly bolster a unit that went from seventh in the league in total defense in 2008 to 28th in 2009.