With Jonnu Smith departing, Titans lose free agent who was biggest part of their identity

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The first of the Titans’ big pool of free agents to leave was, in my estimation, the most important.

Jonnu Smith is the most significant of the crop in terms of his importance to the team’s identity. The Titans talk about tough, physical, team-first guys, and he’s been that for them through his four seasons.


Those who think he’ll be easily replaced put too much weight into receiving numbers, which weren’t huge, though he had eight TDs last season, and underrate his versatility. And when he did catch the ball he could run people over or run away from them, a nightmare matchup at times. [Unlocked]

He was a huge factor in Derrick Henry’s 2,027-yard rushing season, a role he took on willingly as it increased as Talor Lewan went down at left tackle. Backup Ty Sambrailo was also lost for the year after five starts, leaving the Titans with third-stringer David Quesenberry as the starter for the final five regular-season games and the playoff loss to Baltimore.

Look back on Tennessee’s Week 12 win at Indianapolis, a crucial game for a team that lost two weeks earlier to the Colts to see just how much of a factor Smith was in the run game at times.

The Titans will be able to retain Anthony Firkser, slated to be a restricted free agent, with a tender offer. But MyCole Pruitt and Geoff Swaim are also free agents as of Wednesday.

They have work to do to hold the remainder of their group together, and if they had Firkser, Pruitt and Swaim back they would be telegraphing their offensive plan far more often with their tight-end deployment.

Firkser is an excellent receiver who could take on an expanded role but is not a great blocker. Pruitt and Swaim and better blockers who can make some catches but are not dynamic with the ball in their hands the way the Smith is.

Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN that Smith’s four-year contract is worth $50 million with $31.25 million fully guaranteed. We always need to see details to understand the value fully, but $12.5 million a year is not an unexpected price tag for a player who rated as one of the two best free-agent tight ends along with Hunter Henry.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

Dianna Russini reported that Corey Davis has also been told he won’t be back, a notification that is not surprising considering what the market is likely to offer him.

Free agent Gerald Everett of the Rams might be someone worth looking at to fill Smith's void. Though he's probably not Smith's equal as a blocker, given an expanded role he can get yards after the catch and lineup on the line or flexed.

The Titans' need at receiver, where they cut the often-injured Adam Humpreies a few weeks ago, outweighs the need at tight end. The Titans really have no one dependable after A.J. Brown, with Cam Batson the only depth guy who's done anything for them.

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