Mail: The Titans and DeAndre Hopkins, a no-defense draft and Kevin Byard's status

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Here is hoping you’ve got big plans and they live up to all your expectations.

If you haven't heard or watched it yet, I'm sure you will have room for the latest edition of the podcast. It is waiting for you on AppleSpotify, Google PodcastsTuneIn and iHeart as well as YouTube.

On to the best questions you've sent my way this week.

Sami Mamou #24 Although we’ve had bad luck with older veteran WRs, getting DHop by some miracle this late for nothing but money would feel a bit like winning the lottery. How much better would adding him make the titans, assuming a best-case scenario with health and production?

When getting DeAndre Hopkins would have entailed putting together a trade package and inheriting big base salaries for 2023 and 2024, I didn’t think it was a prudent move.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins talks with Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry after a joint training camp practice at Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
DeAndre Hopkins and Derrick Henry/ © George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Now that it would just be about a contract, I think the Titans should pursue him. I think the Titans should chase any quality receiver who becomes available.

Spotrac estimates Hopkins to be worth a three-year, $69.6 million contract.

The cap remains a concern now, but not in 2024 or 2025.

Mike Herndon drew up how the Titans can make a deal work.

Sure, Hopkins recently listed the five quarterbacks he’d most like to catch passes from: the Bills’ Josh Allen, the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and the Chargers’ Justin Herbert.

What receiver wouldn’t choose those guys? That doesn’t mean he lands with one of those teams. And if he’s the guy we’ve seen before for a while longer, he makes any quarterback better.

I’m wary of his age and the impending decline that comes with almost anyone in his situation. We’ve seen the Titans get stung badly by Julio Jones and to a lesser degree by Robert Woods.

But they made trades for those guys and money was tight.

This would be purely money and the cap is about to loosen up. Circumstances are different.

Hopkins knows Mike Vrabel and Tim Kelly. I don’t know if they and a top offer could lure him to a team in transition not on a Super Bowl doorstep.

Adding him could make the team significantly better. If the Titans lined up with Treylon Burks and Hopkins outside, Kyle Philps in the slot, Chig Okonkwo at tight end and Derrick Henry (spelled by Tyjae Spears) in the backfield, that’s something to work with.

Chris Moore and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine return to reasonable positions in the receiver pecking order – fourth and fifth in some order.

Darrell Mayberry What would the Titans won-loss record need to be for Tannehill to be benched for Levis which I hope does not happen.

I don’t think it’s a straight win-loss record.

How much is a bad record on the offense and the QB? Is Ryan Tannehill being inefficient and turning the ball over?

I don’t have the answer. But it would need to be a combination of a very bad version of Tannehill – not the offense.  but Tannehill specifically – along with Will Levis looking super ready in the limited work he was getting in practice and in what he was showing coaches in meetings and everything else.

David Jackson Obviously, the offense needed lots of help but what do you think the ramifications of a no-defense draft might be down the road?

Well, they could be a year away from done with Kevin Byard and his replacement isn’t on the roster. They are probably a year away from being done with Denico Autry and his replacement is not on the roster and they are thin at defensive end. (I think Autry is conceivably an age exception and if he had a solid year, I’d consider another short contract.)

They are likely a year away from the end of Kristian Fulton, and barring an absolutely shocking resurrection by Caleb Farley, they don’t have his replacement on the roster either.

So at safety, defensive end and No. 1 CB they didn’t do any work in the 2023 draft to set themselves up to handle big losses in 2024.

Now big salary cap room can help them deal with those holes in a year. Desirable players can come free at those spots on the open market and bring experience and production.

Jeff Johnson Why does it seem like the national media discount the Titans for being a "run first" team with a great defense?

Jeff, I’m going to circle to a common theme and tell you not to care what the national media thinks.

But also, there are not a lot of run-first teams with great defenses doing great damage in the league, at least unless a big part of that run-first offense is the quarterback.

The Eagles were fifth in rushing, but they were also ninth in passing (for third overall in offense) and they were second in defense and went to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs were 20th in rushing (but first in passing and first on offense) and 11th in defense and won the Super Bowl.

Also, I'm not willing to call the Titans' defense great just yet. It's got serious potential, but I need to see it at work for a bit.

Kim Hillsman Dunaway Best guess on status of Kevin Byard.

I fully expect he will show up for minicamp starting June 6th and go about his business as usual for the three days of mandatory work. Then he’ll do the same when training camp starts.

If you had to pick someone to miss the voluntary stuff, he’d be at the top of the list because you know he’s not a guy who will suffer for missing early installation and will be on top of things. Safety depth is a big issue and so guys behind him are getting work.

If he’s saying, “Hey, you pissed me off with that pay cut request,” then he’s been heard, but life will move on. There is no way they can cut him as a June 1 designee or after that date to save $14.1 million against the cap while eating $5.5 million this year and $8.1 million in 2024. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense after keeping a veteran core and with no alternative at his spot.

Those would be the same numbers for a post-June 1 trade, but the team acquiring him would take on $13.6 million base salaries in 2023 and 2024. Who needs a safety and has that money for him at this stage?

They made their play and couldn’t save money with him.

Haris Hadzimuratovic Can you just post this question with no real content so that people who don't pay for the site know we get preferential treatment?

Absolutely. The first place I look for questions is the private Facebook page for PaulKuharsky.com members.

But people who are not members of the site are not seeing this. Perhaps I will make it public on Monday.

Tony Yayiod Who's more likely to make the team....Kyle Phillips or Mason Kinsey??

Kyle Philips, one L, is on the team if he’s healthy, no question. In three wide, he’s very likely the first option in the slot. Mason Kinsey continues to be around because they continue to refuse to upgrade. He spent time on the Patriots practice squad in 2020 after he didn’t stick with the Titans as an undrafted free agent. He was on Tennessee’s practice squad for most of 2021 and 2022 with three game appearances and one 3-yard catch.

What’s the clock, exactly, on development? For receivers on this team you get forever. Cody Hollister played for the team for four years. Think about that. For four years they couldn’t replace him.

Kinsey has two more years at very inexpensive prices. Sad as it is, he could be around in some form for that long. If he’s on the 53 at the end of camp. That’s a terrible development.

Brian Moore How can the defense be great? It seems that's the unit that offers the most hope. We've talked a lot of minimal cap space and the offense. What if they add some veteran minimum free agents at ILB or S or DL? It's a good group. Can they make it great?

Again with the idea that in May there is a free agent pool of desirable players.

Per Spotrac, 35 safeties have been signed. Seventy-six defensive linemen, with 22 of the 52 remaining 30 years old or older. There are 11 inside linebackers available. Two are former Titans – Zach Cunningham and Jayon Brown -- and three more are 30, 32 and 32.

Kuharsky megaphoneSo the pool is six. Do you think one of the six inside linebackers the entire league has left sitting until now is a key element in turning the Titans' defense from good to great?

Anyone they add from the veteran pool now isn’t going to throw it from good to great.

What could move it from good to great?

➡️ A super-healthy year

➡️ A great ACL comeback from Harold Landry

➡️ The new veterans (Arden Key, Azeez Al-Shaair, Sean Murphy-Bunting) panning out as well or better than anyone could have expected

➡️ Top-flight seasons from Jeffery Simmons and Byard

➡️ Big second-year jumps from Roger McCrary and Chance Campbell

➡️ A huge impact from Chris Harris

➡️ Terrific contract years from Kristian Fulton and Teair Tart.

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