Tennessee Titans salary cap outlook: Big changes could be coming in 2014

Brian McIntyre

The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Tennessee Titans.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $135.208 million (7th-largest in the NFL)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $9.245 million (13th-most in the NFL, as of July 8, 2013). The Titans have yet to sign first-round guard Chance Warmack, who will have a first-year cap hit of $2,212,118. Once signed, Warmack will replace a contract with a $555,000 cap hit in the "Top 51" salary cap accounting that takes place during the offseason, which means the Titans have about $7.6 million in cap space after Warmack signs his deal.

[Related: Titans' season hinges on Jake Locker]

Best Bargain: Once again, the best bargain on the Titans' roster is a player on a rookie contract. The Titans used the No. 52 pick in the 2012 NFL draft on linebacker Zach Brown, who was signed to a four-year contract worth $3,858,298 with $1,811,413 in guarantees. Brown earned $1,636,036 in Year 1 of that contract and, in just 65.66 percent of the defensive snaps, totaled 92 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions (two he returned for touchdowns), recovered two fumbles and led the Titans with 11 tackles for loss and was fourth with eight quarterback hits. Not bad production from a player who Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said was "allergic to contact" after he was picked by the Titans. Brown, who still has a chip on his shoulder thanks to that comment, is expected to have a larger role on defense in 2013, during which he'll earn $565,377 in fully guaranteed base salary with a $876,886 cap figure, the 34th-largest cap hit on the Titans and fifth-largest cap hit among the team's linebackers.

Potential Camp Cap Casualty: Veteran right tackle David Stewart had an injury-plagued and penalty-filled 2012 season. Stewart missed the final four games with a broken leg, yet still managed to lead the Titans with eight penalties, seven of which came within a four-week stretch (Weeks 3-6) early in the season. Stewart received a $1 million roster bonus on the tenth day of the 2013 league and is due $5 million in base salary, which would become fully guaranteed if he's on the roster in Week 1. Releasing Stewart, which is possible since Michael Otto is a serviceable option at right tackle, would save $5 million in cash and cap space in 2013 and $6.4 million in cash and cap space in 2014.

Looming Contract Issues: Like all teams, the Titans will have some major decisions to make after the 2013 season. The Titans will have until May 3, 2014 to exercise the fifth-year option they hold on quarterback Jake Locker's contract. As a Top 10 pick, Locker's fifth-year option would be priced at the cost of the 2014 transition tag, which is projected to be worth $13.614 million, provided the salary cap remains flat at $123 million in 2014.

Another first-round pick the Titans will have to make a decision on is wide receiver Kenny Britt, a talented, but brittle player who has found himself on the wrong side of the law on far too many occasions for the front office to make any significant financial commitment to. Starting cornerback Alterraun Verner, a 2010 fourth-round pick, is coming off a strong 2012 season (81 tackles, two interceptions, one penalty as a 16-game starter) and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014.

Then there's running back Chris Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler who ran for 2,006 yards in 2009. In the 32 games since signing a four-year, $53 million extension that included $31 million in guarantees, Johnson has rushed for 2,290 yards with just 10 touchdowns. Johnson showed occasional flashes of his old form in 2012, but had seven games with "per yard" rushing averages under 3.0. If Johnson is not more productive in 2013, he might not see his $8 million base salary in 2014. Releasing Johnson next offseason would save $6 million in cap space, if outright released.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The Titans will have some cutting to do in 2014 as their projected cap commitments is nearly $135 million. Seven players, including Johnson and offensive tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart, have cap numbers exceeding $6 million.

Previous salary cap outlooks

32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns

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