Since Bo Scaife is not expected to be a Titan this year, he will no longer be the most overpaid player on the team. That distinction will then belong to Chris Hope, who will be due a $6.5M base salary if he remains with the Titans this year, as mentioned by Drexel in his positional review of the safeties in March.
Despite Hope's subpar play last season, I don't see anyone on the roster capable of adequately replacing him, which leaves the Titans in a predicament. Do they overpay to keep Hope for the final year on his contract or do they replace him with a free agent?
There may be three top potential replacements for Hope in the free agent market:
SS Dawan Landry, Baltimore Ravens, 28 years old
He may be the best strong safety that will be on the market. The Baltimore Sun reports that based in part on the Ravens' past history at the position, they are not expected to re-sign him. Landry could be either a restricted or an unrestricted free agent, depending on how the labor situation shakes out.
S Danieal Manning, Chicago Bears, age 28
Manning has played both FS and SS in Lovie Smith's Tampa-2, which could make for an interesting safety tandem if he's paired with Michael Griffin. It could allow Jerry Gray to do a lot of things with them, as they have a lot of similarities. Manning can also provide depth as a return man. Although he's been in the league only five years, Manning is 28 years old. It's not known yet whether he will be restricted or unrestricted in free agency.
SS Quintin Mikell, Philadelphia Eagles, age 30
A Pro Bowl selection in 2009, Mikell is not expecting to return to the Eagles, who selected a safety in the second-round of the draft. Rotoworld writes, "a strong run-stopper, the soon-to-be 31 year old is also still solid in coverage, and should draw plenty of interest on the open market." An eight-year veteran, Mikell will be an UFA. The good news is that he's better than Hope. The bad news is that he's the same age as Hope; he'll be on the wrong side of 30 this season and, like Hope, may be past his prime.
Actually, I believe Hope could be adequate for one more year if the front seven can help him by providing a good pass rush. I don't believe he'd be worth $6.5 million though.
Who would you like to see at strong safety for the Titans this year?
Hey guys, thanks for your comments. If the Titans can get someone like Landry, I say do it now. No reason to wait a year to make a move. However, if they do make a move, it seems more likely they'll target a mid-level guy who they believe has some upside.
I am not sure that it is entirely fair to say that there is no one on the current roster who could replace Hope. How would anyone know that? No one - not Schommer, Johnson or Rolle - got an opportunity to play the strong safety position last year. Because of Fisher's history of rarely starting rookies and his undying commitment to underperforming veterans, I don't think there is any way to know whether there is a player on the current roster who would be an upgrade. I am putting my faith in Jerry Gray to decide whether strong safety is a position of need in free agency. I agree that Hope has seen better days and should be replaced, but I am not as certain that his replacement isn't on the current roster.
Personally, the cap-figure isn't a factor for me this year. I just don' t see the team being that successful. 2012? Now that's when my expectations rise and I would be more concerned about cap-space for mediocre players.
If we save space at safety, where could the Titans splurge to really upgrade? If they save for the sake of saving, I don't see the point in that (from a non-owner perspective).