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Postby Homeless » Sat Jul 19, 2003 5:52 pm

Notable Offseason Moves: The Titans spent much of the offseason wearing out their abacus as they battled the NFL’s salary cap. Linebacker Randall Godfrey took a pay cut over the winter, then was released in June. Defensive backs Dainon Sidney, Donald Mitchell, Aric Morris, and Rich Coady all signed elsewhere, and Samari Rolle, Derrick Mason, Steve McNair, Keith Bulluck, and Benji Olson all had their contracts restructured.

Eventually the Titans got under the number enough to resign backup quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who had been cut in February and had visited a few other teams. Tennessee also brought back punter Craig Hentrich and still intends to do the same with center Gennaro DiNapoli.

However, all the roster gymnastics left little cash to upgrade from anywhere except the draft and the free agent pool. The draft yielded two defensive backs, top pick Andre Woolfolk and fifth-rounder Donnie Nickey, and Outland Trophy-winning defensive lineman Rien Long, all of whom could see significant playing time right away.

In addition, the Titans nabbed athletic wide receiver Tyrone Calico, who played collegiately right in their backyard at Middle Tennessee State. Calico was discussed as a potential first-round pick, but the Titans nabbed him in the second round, 60th overall. The raw but gifted Calico could be the complement to Derrick Mason the club has been seeking—and it could happen as quickly as later this season.

Calico will join Drew Bennett, Justin McCareins, Darrell Hill, Eddie Berlin, and Jake Schifino as the committee vying to replace Kevin Dyson, who took his damaged hamstring and hobbled off to Carolina—where he promptly tore his Achilles’ tendon and will miss most, if not all, of the 2003 campaign.

Speaking of Mason, he managed to fracture his hand during a charity golf outing in May. He was already back participating in skeleton drills by the teams’ June minicamp and should be fully recovered by the time training camp rolls around.

The Titans also fleshed out the depth of their other skill positions, adding Eddie George’s heir apparent, Chris Brown of Colorado, via the draft, along with talented quarterback Jason Gesser and Calico’s college teammate, running back Dwone Hicks, as undrafted free agents and.

The offseason was notable for quarterback Steve McNair for a couple reasons. First, after myriad back, knee, shoulder, and thumb problems over the past few seasons, McNair did not go under the knife in the offseason. He did, however, make headlines when he was arrested for DUI and possession of a handgun during the Titans’ May minicamp. McNair apologized profusely for the incident, and it shouldn’t impact him this coming season.

Position Battles: The Titans are set under center, with McNair as the starter and O’Donnell back to run the scout team—and practice with the varsity those weeks where Steve is too banged up to do anything except excel on Sundays.

And despite widespread rumors of his demise, George returns as the Titans’ feature back. Robert Holcombe and John Simon will see spot duty and relieve George in the passing game, and the offense is now fully McNair’s show.

However, Eddie is still a goal line threat (no back had more carries inside the 10 last year) and a powerful clock-control tool who will plow forward for 1,000 yards and 10 TDs this season. Brown will serve as his understudy, but—barring an injury to the back with the third-longest consecutive games string at that position in NFL history—don’t expect significant fantasy contributions from the former Buffalo in the immediate future.

Mason is clearly McNair’s top target, but the battle to line up opposite him is quite intriguing. Both Bennett and McCareins proved capable of making plays after Dyson was injured last season and are the top contenders entering training camp. McCareins brings more athleticism to the battle, while Bennett has better hands and seemed to be sought out by McNair in key situations last year.
Calico is the wild card; if he learns the offense quickly enough, he has the skills to blow by both Bennett and McCareins and claim the second spot and make some serious fantasy noise. At a minimum, he’s a keeper league find who will yield benefits down the road.

Tight end Frank Wycheck is two years removed from leading the team in receptions, and the mileage is starting to catch up with him. Frank may still be the starter, but expect Erron Kinney to be worked into the rotation more frequently as Wycheck winds down a stellar career.

Keep an Eye On: The battle for McNair’s affection opposite Mason should draw attention from anyone looking for a sleeper fantasy wideout. Last season, Mason accounted for 1,012 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games; the remaining Tennessee wideouts combined for 1,253 yards and eight scores. If Bennett, McCariens, or Calico were to lay claim to a majority of those numbers by winning the second receiver job in training camp, you could certainly do worse for a fourth fantasy wideout.

The extent the Titans elect to phase in Kinney and phase out Wycheck will also be of interest. Wycheck was never a fantasy stud, but he was a consistent cog in the Tennessee offense and likely found his way onto fantasy rosters. If Kinney takes a significant bite out of Wycheck’s snaps, he could be the one worth using as a spot start at tight end
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Postby Homeless » Tue Jul 22, 2003 10:24 pm

The Tennessee Titans signed a pair of rookies expected to be major offensive contributors in the not-too-distant future. Second-round pick Tyrone Calico, whom some felt might go in the first round, received a four-year deal with an array of performance-based incentives in addition to the rookie minimum salary. Third-rounder Chris Brown, the heir apparent to Eddie George, also inked a four-year deal for the rookie minimum. Only Andre Woolfolk, Tennessee’s first-round selection, remains unsigned among Titan draft picks.

The ultra-athletic Calico opened eyes during summer minicamps and could push Drew Bennett and Justin McCariens for playing time opposite Derrick Mason as early as this year. Brown’s day in the sun is probably a bit further down the road, but both are worthy of keeper-league consideration.
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