What no franchise tag means for Harold Landry

NASHVILLE – The Titans' failure to franchise tag Harold Landry tells us one of two things:

1) They are confident they will reach a long-term deal with him by early next week.

2) They are moving on from him.

Harold Landry

Courtesy Tennessee Titans

The second scenario is much more likely  

It would have cost the Titans $18.702 million, money they would have had to have freed up under the cap by March 16. Per Over the Cap, they are $7.867 million over the cap right now. [Unlocked]

The pre-negotiation period arrives Monday and free-agency officially opens March 16, and pass rushers are always a hot commodity. If Landry starts talking with other teams then, he's as good as gone.

ESPN ranks Landry 16th on its list of the top 50 pending free agents. NFL.com ranks him 17th on its list of the top 101. Pro Football Focus ranks Landry 30th. It says he benefitted a great deal from cleanup and unblocked opportunities as he got to 12 sacks in his fourth year. Sporting News has him 16th.

At the combine last week Jon Robinson said he had a meeting scheduled with Landry’s representatives.

“He has done a lot of good things for us, but there’s a lot of factors that go into (the decision),” Robinson said. “He has certainly worked hard, and he’s been about what we are about, and we are going to do our best to try to keep him here.”

But Landry is not a singular talent who commands attention from an offensive scheme on every snap, and that’s the sort of player who is really worth giant free-agent dollars. He doesn’t miss snaps and brings great speed and bend. He’s worked hard to diversify his moves but is still primarily a speed guy.

The Titans could have really made their decision on Landry last year when they signed Bud Dupree to a five-year, $82.5 million deal with $35 million guaranteed.

If the Titans are close to a deal, the first-year cap number will be significantly lower than the franchise tag and last year's team identity will remain intact.

The Titans front four with Landry and Dupree outside and Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry inside was a tremendous, defining force for the 2021 Titans.

A team that had just 19 sacks in 2020 jumped to 43 in 2021, with those four accounting for 32.5 of them.

"It was fun to watch last year and to see how all of that kind of came together," Robinson said. "I think that all of those guys benefited from each other. I thought the rush was coordinated. I thought Denico’s presence along with Jeffrey’s presence helped Harold. I thought Harold’s presence helped Jeffrey. And that’s what you want from them.

"But it is a balance of trying to keep that thing together, and working through Harold’s contract and you know being mindful of players that we kind of have coming down the pike too that we want to try to keep there as well."

Those players coming down the pike include A.J. Brown, who's up after 2022, and Jeffery Simmons, whose fifth-year-option will be executed in May for just $10.753 million and cover 2023.

The moment Landry leaves, the Titans will be looking for a cheaper replacement who can come close to matching his production.

He’ll join a free agent group that is slated to include some big names who’ve been productive but are getting older: Von Miller, Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Jason Pierre-Paul, Akiem Hicks, Jerry Hughes, Jadeveon Clowney.

The draft is viewed as being strong with pass rushers.

If they are moving on, the Titans will be looking for a draft pick to help fill the hole. Landry was an anomaly for a team that has long failed to find and develop pass rushers.

The roster alternatives -- Derrick Roberson is in line to be a restricted free agent, Rashad Weaver is coming off a broken leg and is more of an edge-setter -- are insufficient.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

For the Titans, Dupree missed six games and wasn’t himself early as he was still recovering from a late-season ACL tear from 2021. But by year’s end, he was back to himself and there is great reason to be very optimistic about him.

He benefits from the presence of a quality player on the other side.

“Not just last year but I think Harold’s development and growth, we have great history,” Mike Vrabel said. “I have great trust in Harold to know what to do and play to the standard we expect. He plays a lot of positions for us. He’s a valuable part of our team.

"I have a very good relationship with him and his family and care about him as a person as much as I care about him as a player.”

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