|Will Eugene Amano be the center in 2012? Photo by Andrew Strickert for Total Titans|
Two years ago, I actually thought Eugene Amano was a mediocre or even fairly decent player (shame on me) but that was when he was a guard. I believed then that the o-line would be improved with addition by subtraction (exit Kevin Mawae, enter Leroy Harris, with Amano switching to center.) I was right about Mawae, who was done, but not about Amano being able to provide an upgrade at center.
The "let's try Amano at center" experiment needs to end. Two years of poor results should be more than enough for Mike Munchak to admit that the experiment has been a failure.
Amano signed a five-year, $26M extension following the 2009 season and has three years remaining on his contract. He's been the most overpaid/underperforming player on the roster for the last two years and is scheduled to make $3,182,500 in 2012.
I believe the Titans would be better served investing that money elsewhere.
Continuing our look at the roster, we should note that Leroy Harris is listed with a G/C designation. Harris was a center in college but has spent the bulk of his time in Tennessee as a guard. I'll be very surprised if he's moved from his current LG position. Harris has one year remaining on a two-year contract.
Fernando Velasco has been the backup center for the last two seasons and will soon be an unrestricted free agent. I've written favorably about Velasco for the last several training camps and think he's a serviceable reserve. Velasco, who has been the primary backup at both center and guard, shouldn't be considered an upgrade at any of the three interior line positions. If the Titans re-sign him, he should be considered as depth only.
The fourth center on the roster is Kevin Matthews, son of Bruce, his position coach and the best friend of Munchak. Cynics claim that's the only reason he's on the team and they have a case. Kevin was an undrafted free agent who doesn't possess the athletic ability of his father, his uncle Clay Jr. or his cousin Clay III. Matthews, who has appeared in only three games in two years, was usually a gameday inactive last year and doesn't appear to be destined for anything beyond a backup role. Frankly, I thought keeping him on the roster last year was a waste of a valuable roster spot.
Fortunately, the Titans have some options to upgrade the position this year, as there's a strong free agent class of centers. I'd like to see the Titans sign one of the following guys; each of them would upgrade the position. All ages will be as of this upcoming season.
Scott Wells (Packers), age 31 - Although he's often been overshadowed by other Packers o-linemen, particularly Chad Clifton and Josh Sitton, Wells has been a dependable and above average starter, one of the better centers in the league for the last several years. I don't know what Wells' family situation is, but he's from the Nashville area, and may enjoy a return here if the money is right. Wells received his first Pro Bowl invitation for his work last season. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has said all the right things about Wells, but Green Bay has bigger priorities and a lot of holes to fill on defense. I'd love to see Wells in two-tone blue.
Nick Hardwick (Chargers), age 31 - It wasn't that long ago that San Diego had one of the best lines in the league, with Pro Bowlers Hardwick (2006), Kris Dielman (2007-10) and Marcus McNeill (2006-07) and I recall all of them having some good games against the Titans. Hardwick has a history of foot and ankle injuries and missed most of the 2009 season. Although he may never regain his earlier form, Hardwick has started every game in the last two seasons and should be able to play another four years.
Samson Satele (Raiders), age 28 - The best thing I like about Satele is his age, he should be able to play through at least one more and possibly two contracts, health permitting. Satele, regarded as a better run-blocker than pass-protector, was a second-round draft pick, 60th overall in 2007, one spot after C Ryan Kalil at #59. Leroy Harris was the third center selected, in the fourth round at #115, and the Titans later claimed they had him ranked as the second best center on their board. If that was true, I'm curious if they had Kalil or Satele as the top center (though hindsight suggests it should have been Kalil.)
Dan Koppen (Patriots), age 33 - Koppen was placed on Injured Reserve after breaking an ankle and fibula in the first game of last season. Given his age and injury, the Patriots may not make re-signing him a priority. He would be a risk, but he's been a very good run-blocker and if healthy again, could reward some team handsomely.
Those are the guys at the top of my list. There are some other big names in free agency, but I don't really care for any of them. Chris Myers (Texans), age 31, is pretty much a system player. He's very good in a zone blocking scheme but probably isn't too good outside of it. Andre Gurode (Ratbirds), age 33, was released by the Cowboys a year ago and got five starts at left guard for Baltimore. His best days are behind him.
Todd McClure (Falcons), age 35, is at the age where you have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. Matt Birk (Ratbirds), age 36, Jeff Saturday (Colts), age 37, and Casey Wiegmann (Chiefs), age 39, are definitely past their prime. Saturday is "considering not playing" and Wiegmann is "likely to retire." If Saturday retires, there's a chance Hardwick, who's from Indianapolis, may want to return there.
I like Wells, and not because he's from Nashville. He's the best free agent available to anchor the Titans line.
If the Titans don't sign a center in free agency, that leaves the draft.
Wisconsin's Peter Konz is the highest rated center in the draft, but I'd rather see the Titans take a defensive end at #20, which is really too soon to select a center. Konz ought to be gone later in the first round or early second, so the Titans could be looking at some of the following guys in later rounds. Rankings/projections are by OptimumScouting.com.
Name - College - Height - Weight - Proj. Round
Peter Konz - Wisconsin - 6'3 - 292 - 1st-2nd
David Molk - Michigan - 6'2 - 290 - 2nd-3rd
Ben Jones - Georgia - 6'3 - 300 - 2nd-3rd
Mike Brewster - Ohio State - 6'4 - 305 - 3rd-5th
Moe Petrus - UConn - 6'2 - 293 - 4th-6th
I'm sure we'll be taking a closer look at these guys if the Titans don't sign a free agent center.
Who do you want the Titans' center to be in 2012? As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated.
The Dolphins dumped Satele to the Raiders because he kept getting destroyed by 3-4 NTs; think Kevin Mawae in 2009. With the Bills, Jets, and Pats playing or switching to traditional two-gap 3-man fronts and massive NTs, they had to get rid of him. Not really my favorite.
Prepare yourselves for another year of Amano starting, though I'll have more to say about that when I write up the guards positional analysis.
If the Titans don't fill the gaping hole at centre through free agency, then Peter Konz or David DeCastro (even though he is a guard, and assuming he still be available) would have to be the pick at number 20, regardless of who else might be available. The interior of the offensive line had to be re-made and if it isn't done in free agency, the draft will be our only hope. I don't think Amano is going anywhere (but hopefully moves back to guars) and Harris will probably be back as well. I do hope, however, that a veteran guy like Hardwick or Wells is signed this off-season to shore up the middle of the line. I remember the impact that Mawae had when he was signed. I believe a guy like Wells or Hardwick could come in here a have a huge impact on the run game.
@ThomasGower Thanks for that info, Tom. I was not aware Satele was that bad and will take him off my wishlist. I'm afraid you're right about being stuck with Amano at center for another year and I'm not too happy about it. :(
@ThomasGower -- Even Satele, though, would be an upgrade at the position for the Titans.