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5 Titans’ defensive free agents to know

Denico Autry, Kristian Fulton among potential Tennessee free agents

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers
Denico Autry
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

With former Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator Shane Bowen having been hired to fill that role for the New York Giants, let’s look at a handful of Titans’ defensive free agents Bowen might want to bring to East Rutherford,

CB Sean Murphy-Bunting

The Giants are likely to let Adoree’ Jackson test free agency next month. They have Nick McCloud and Tre Hawkins III as options across from Deonte Banks, but could use someone with starting experience.

Murphy-Bunting, who turns 27 in June, was a 2019 second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He signed with the Titans as a free agent last offseason, and started 14 games. He had a 91.8 passer rating against and allowed a 63.8% completion rate. Murphy-Bunting surrendered two touchdowns, intercepted two passes and missed just 3.4% of his tackles.

Pro Football Focus ranks him No. 149 on its list of the top 150 free agents, and projects a one-year, $4 million contract. Spotrac projects a one-year, $6.7 million deal.

LB Azeez Al-Shaair

Al-Shaair, who began his career as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, led the Titans with 163 tackles (84 solo) in 2022.

Pro Football Focus ranks Al-Shaair No. 70 among potential free agents and projects a three-year, $20.25 million contract ($6.75 million annually) with $11.5 million guaranteed. PFF says:

Al-Shaair was the 49ers’ third linebacker while working behind star Fred Warner and the hard-hitting Dre Greenlaw from 2019-22 before signing a one-year, $5 million deal with the Titans last offseason. Al-Shaair is completely fearless coming forward and attacking gaps in the run game, bursting through blocks or fighting with a second effort to make a play. There are limitations in coverage, but if any team needs an early-down thumper in the run game, Al-Shaair is the guy.

The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Al-Shaair is an inside linebacker, having played 1,011 of 1,101 defensive snaps inside for Tennessee in 2023. The Giants have Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden inside. Even though McFadden had an impressive season in 2023, might Bowen prefer Al-Shaair?

S K’Von Wallace

If the Giants lose Xavier McKinney in free agency, which is absolutely a possibility, they will have a big hole to fill at the back end of their defense. Wallace might be able to help.

A 2020 fourth-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, Wallace has never been a full-time starter. In 62 regular-season games, Wallace has 19 starts.

After three seasons in Philly, Wallace was released by the Eagles before the start of the 2023 season. He played seven games for the Arizona Cardinals, starting five, before being claimed off waivers by the Titans. He played in 10 games with seven starts for Bowen and the Titans.

Wallace played well in Tennessee, compiling a 75.9 overall grade in 414 snaps with the Titans. Overall in 2023 he had a career-best 92.4 passer rating against.

Wallace played 807 total defensive snaps in 2023, with 349 (43.2%) coming as a free safety, 326 (40.4%) and 115 (14.3%) coming in the slot. That is valuable versatility.

DL Denico Autry

The Giants sent Leonard Williams to the Seattle Seahawks at the 2023 NFL trade deadline for a second-round pick. Absolutely a good move for the Giants with Williams headed to free agency, but it left a hole next to Dexter Lawrence on the Giants’ defensive line.

Yes, Autry will be 34 when next season begins, meaning he would be a short-term solution. It is impossible, though, to argue with Autry’s production in recent years. In 2023, he set career highs in sacks (11.5), quarterback hits (17), tackles (50), solo tackles (30) and was one off his career-high in tackles for loss (12).

In three seasons under Bowen, Autry has 28.5 sacks.

Pro Football Focus ranks Autry No. 64 on its list of the top 150 free agents, and estimates a one-year, fully-guaranteed $7.25 million contract. PFF says:

Autry is still one of the strongest five-technique defensive ends in the game, splitting double teams by lowering his shoulder and barreling through blocks with sheer power or sometimes utilizing a jump chop across the tackle’s face to the inside. The wily veteran also does a good job of using a blocker’s momentum in a backpedal to slingshot himself forward, always finding a way to end up around the quarterback, even if only to deliver a shot just after the ball gets thrown. Autry will be 34 years old in 2023 but still has good football in his future.

CB Kristian Fulton

This one is a Nick Falato recommendation.

Fulton, who turns 26 in September, was a second-round pick by the Titans in 2020. In four seasons, he has started 37 of the 42 regular-season games in which he has played.

PFF did not love his work in 2023. He had a 46.4 overall grade in 2023, and his best PFF grade for a full season was 64.1 in 2021. In 2023, he had a career-worst passer rating against of 114.3, per Pro Football Reference. His passer ratings against the previous two seasons were 71.3 in 2021 and 82.8 in 2022.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Fulton is a wide cornerback. He would be another option to play opposite Banks.

Spotrac projects a three-year, $20.339 million contract ($6.7 million annually) contract for Fulton.