Mandatory mini-camp is next week and Tuesday Mike Vrabel left the window open to at least one player skipping it.
The Titans have had a handful of high profile players miss the voluntary Organized Team Activities the last few weeks and that is not Earth shattering news, maybe a little disappointing, but not a cause for mass hysteria.
Tuesday though Vrabel did give an answer that is cause for at least a little concern. When asked if he was excited to get his whole team back Vrabel responded “I’m excited to coach everybody that comes and I would imagine most of those guys will come.”
He did not say he expects to see them all there. He said he expects “most” of them will come. So, by his words it sounds like does not expect them all to come.
Let us go over the list. This time of the years players are often in and out of practices and the Titans are no different with Taylor Lewan, Kevin Byard and Buster Skrine coming and going. There are seven big time players though who we have not seen at all.
Here you go.
RB – Derrick Henry
Guard – Nate Davis
OLB – Harold Landry
OLB – Bud Dupree
MLB – Zach Cunningham
DL – Denico Autry
DL – Jeffery Simmons
Let us examine that list and highlight the players that are most likely not to be there.
Harold Landry just got paid $87.5-Million and has no NO REASON to skip. Bud Dupree just signed last year for $82.5-Million and should absolutely be there. Zach Cunningham renegotiated his contract this Spring, so we fully expect him to be there. Denico Autry just signed a two-year deal last year, so it is also hard to see him not being there.
That leaves us with Henry, Davis and Simmons.
Davis is entering the last year of his rookie contract. He did not have a stellar 2021 season but if he feels strongly enough about his position on the team he could be a guy who says he is not coming back without a new deal. That could be misguided, but guys have agents for a reason.
Jeffery Simmons is a very interesting situation. He still has two-years remaining on his deal after the Titans picked up his 5th year option, but he would be playing those next two seasons at a massive discount. He would make about $13-million for those two years combined, yeah, that’s a lot of dough but when he gets a new deal he is certain to command over $20-million a year.
Aaron Donald just signed for $65-million guaranteed over the next two years. Simmons is not Donald, but he is really, really good and he is seen as one of the young elite players on the defensive line in the league. Other players of that quality like DeForest Buckner and Chris Jones are each commanding $20-million a year or more so Simmons will certainly top that mark.
The question is does he want to top it now? Is he uncomfortable playing under his current deal. New league rules make his 5th year option guaranteed now, so the team can not pull it from him like they did Adoree Jackson this Spring. Still $13-million is nothing when you consider a deal worth probably North of over $100-million overall.
When asked about Simmons attending the Von Miller pass rushing summit Mike Vrabel was hardly excited, saying he has no idea what they are doing there. Vrabel can not complain or criticize them for missing OTA’s, it is against league rules, but the tone of his voice and answers sounds less than thrilled.
That takes us to Henry. Henry has two years remaining on the 4-year, $50-million deal he signed in 2020. Here is what you need to know about NFL deals, they are only good for as long as the team is unwilling to swallow that players dead money.
Henry’s dead cap number in 2022 is $6-million, while his cap number is $15-million. No, the Titans are not going to cut him to save $9-million against the cap. If they were they would have already done it. However, next year his dead cap number is only $3-million while his cap number is $15.5-million.
That means the Titans could save $12.5-million against the cap in 2023 by waiving a 29-year old running back next year who has logged an epic amount of work the last few years. Henry knows it, his agent knows it and they could either want that $12.5-million base salary in 2023 guaranteed or the deal reworked to make sure he gets it in some kind of extension.
Best case scenario for the Titans is that they all show up, but just as Jon Robinson did not “foresee” the Titans trading AJ Brown, Mike Vrabel expects “most” of the missing players to be their next week.
Words matter and “most” was a big one Tuesday.