Tennessee Titans: Weighing Harold Landry’s worth isn’t as easy as you might think

NASHVILLE — Whether or not the Tennessee Titans end up quitting linebacker Harold Landry may depend in part on which set of numbers the team feels is more meaningful — the conventional or the unconventional.

Landry passed all visual tests with flying colors last season, producing career highs in sacks (12), tackles (75), tackles for loss (14) and quarterback hits (22). He started all 17 games, extending his regular-season starting streak to 52. He had 981 defensive snaps, the third straight year he recorded more than 950.

And the 2018 second-round draft pick’s improved play was a big reason the Titans jumped to 43 sacks from 19 in 2020.

So from that perspective, how can the Titans do not afford to re-sign Landry, right?

Where will the passing rush go if the team lets Landry walk, after finishing 10th in the league with those 12 sacks and tied for 14th with his 22 quarterback hits?

Well, one problem when it comes to re-signing Landry, obviously, is money.

The Titans, desperate to improve the passing rush last year, signed linebacker Bud Dupree to a five-year, $82 million deal. Can the team really handle another massive multi-year deal for an edge rusher, especially since Landry is likely to command a deal that would average at least $15 million per season — and likely more?

Even tagging Landry for a year at approximately $17.4 millionby OverTheCap would be difficult in terms of building up the 2022 payroll.

But there may be more numbers than dollars that come into play when deciding whether or not to re-sign Landry.

A few review sites surprisingly suggest that Landry’s impact on opposing offenses last year — despite regularly flattening quarterbacks — wasn’t as great as his stats suggest.

This ESPN Chart, for example, uses NFL Next Gen Stats to measure the impact in 2021 of the NFL’s top 50 pass-rushers (which are determined by pass-rush success rates). It shows that — among those top 50 runners — Landry ranked near the bottom when it came to how often opposing offenses passed him.

It’s all good, Titans fans might say. Let opponents keep thinking Landry doesn’t need more double teaming and let him keep racking up sacks.

But interestingly, that same chart also shows Landry ranking among the top 50 rushers in the NFL when it comes to winrate.

So how come Landry put together such good numbers last season?

Cue another analytics site, Pro Football Focus, which Landry believes greatly benefited of his entourage last season.

“Landry, by stats alone, has had quite the year,” PFF wrote. “It is still important to note that 42 of Landry’s pressures (68) were of the cleaning or unblocking type. Thus, its value may not be as high as the statistics say it should be.

This explains why PFF didn’t give Landry particularly high marks last season: Among edge rushers with over 500 snaps in 2021, he ranked only 55th with a pass-rush rating of 56, 5 and 43rd with an overall score of 63.0.

PFF actually made a similar argument About Dupree when he was a free agent last season, writing that Dupree was “helped immensely by TJ Watt, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, who each grabbed attention and chased quarterbacks out of the pocket to create additional opportunities for Dupree to accumulating bag and pressure numbers.”

Surprising? Scratch your head?

The Titans certainly didn’t seem too concerned with how Dupree got his sacks and pressures, judging by the contract they gave him.

If they feel the same way about Landry, maybe the Titans get creative — through salary cap cuts and salary reconstructions — and find a way to bring him back.

But if they feel Landry has benefited in part from better defense around him in 2021 – with Denico Autry, Dupree and even a better secondary contributing to his success – maybe it becomes easier to say goodbye, and easier to replace it with a cheaper player. .

Which side are you leaning towards?

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