Titans bring back top tacklers as free agency opens

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 6:19pm

The Tennessee Titans opened the NFL’s new contract year by tackling the issue of tackling.

Rather than add players from outside the organization, the first two moves by general manager Ruston Webster and his staff Tuesday were to bring back last season’s leaders in tackles and special teams tackles.

Safety Jordan Babineux, one of the Titans’ more productive free agent additions in 2011, agreed to a multi-year contract and linebacker Patrick Bailey, a one of the team’s top special teams performers each of the last two seasons, agreed to multi-year contracts to remain with Tennessee. The two were among 14 members of last season’s roster scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the new business year commenced at 3 p.m.

Babineaux was the Titans’ leading tackler last fall with a career-high 117.

He started 14 games after Chris Hope was injured and lived up to the nickname “Big Play Babs” he earned during seven seasons with Seattle. He was one of four Titans who had at least one interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery, and his 97-yard interception return for a touchdown against Cleveland was the Titans’ longest scoring play of the season.

Bailey had a team-high 15 special teams tackles and a blocked punt in 2011. A year earlier, after being claimed off waivers following training camp, he finished second with 19. The 26-year-old broke into the league with Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent out of Duke and spent two years as a special teams regular with the Steelers.

The Titans also retained defensive end Malcolm Sheppard and guard Fernando Velasco. Both players signed the exclusive rights free agent deals they had been offered.