The Titans had arguably the worst safety play in the NFL last season, a huge part of the reason why they ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass and dead last in the NFL in points allowed. Michael Griffin was ProFootballFocus’ 86th ranked safety out of 88 eligible, leading the NFL with 22 missed tackles and struggling mightily in coverage as well. Opposite starter Jordan Babineaux wasn’t much better, ranking 76th out of 88 in 12 starts. He was benched down the stretch for the inexperienced Robert Johnson, who wasn’t very good in limited action.
Griffin will be back in 2013 as the Titans stubbornly opted to retain him because they gave him such a large contract last off-season. They had a five-day window after the Super Bowl to get out of paying him his 4.5 million dollar salary in 2013, after already paying out his 15 million guaranteed in the form of a large signing bonus and his 2012 base salary, but opted against letting him go. Babineaux, however, they won’t be as faithful to. After being benched down the stretch, Babineaux was highly unlikely to be back as a starter and probably won’t been seen as worth his 1.6 million dollar non-guaranteed salary in 2013. The Titans had to find at least one new starting safety this off-season.
The Titans did that with this signing. In fact, they managed to get a very solid safety for a very reasonable sum of money. Wilson, one of the league’s underrated players, was actually ProFootballFocus’ 8th rated safety in 2012. The Bills new coaching staff cut him likely because they didn’t trust him going forward, as he turns 32 in March, but he should have at least one more season in him as at least an average starting safety in the NFL. The Bills will miss him.
Wilson’s contract with the Titans is worth 4 million over 2 years. While I don’t have the specifics, that probably means the Titans got an at least average starting safety for about 2 million in 2013, which is an excellent deal, especially since it was their biggest off-season need. This was a very smart signing.
As for the Titans’ draft plans, I don’t think this alters them much. Wilson is hardly a long term solution and might end up being a cap casualty next off-season. Griffin, meanwhile, could go with him if he doesn’t get his act together very quickly. A safety like Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro is still very much an option for the Titans at #10 overall. Other options with that pick include Alabama cornerback DeMarcus Milliner, Alabama guard Chance Warmack, and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper. They also could easily trade down.
If they opt against drafting Vaccaro at 10, they’ll likely spend a day 2 pick on a safety in what is a very strong safety class. Vaccaro, Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien (also a likely 1st round pick), Florida’s Matt Elam, South Carolina’s DJ Swearinger, LSU’s Eric Reid, Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas, and Georgia Southern’s JJ Wilcox could all easily end up as future starters out of this draft. Bears GM Phil Emery mentioned at The Combine that he views 6 safety prospects as future starters out of this draft. That’s just one man’s opinion, but it makes a lot of sense and could easily be indicative of the views of the league as a whole.