The Tennessee Titans are willing to wait until later rounds — if need be — to draft an offensive lineman, particularly one that plays at one of the three interior spots.
“You can develop a lot of offensive linemen from the fifth, sixth and seven rounds, so you have to do your homework there,” coach Mike Munchak said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “There’s a lot of good ways to build your roster.
“You don’t only have to do first and second round picks at that position to get it done, but sometimes it’s a good idea to have that type of guy. You want some guys you can draft and say, ‘He’s going to be our guard or our center for the next 10 years to come.’ ”
If ever the Titans were going to look for such a guy, it could be this year, possibly even with their first-round pick (10th overall).
Two guards — Leroy Harris and Deuce Lutui — are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Two others —Fernando Velasco and Kyle DeVan — are set for restricted free agency, and center Eugene Amano, who missed all of last season with an injury, is due to carry a high cap number in the final year of his current contract.
“I think what we’ve been saying all along, we want to improve our offensive line and overall defensively,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “I think those are the keys for us moving forward.”
Tennessee drafted 25 players in the last three years (nine each in 2010 and 2011, seven in 2012). Only one of those selected was an offensive lineman, and that was tackle Byron Stingily, a sixth-round pick (175th overall) in 2001.
It has not picked a lineman who has become a full-time starter since Harris in 2007 (fourth round, 115th overall) and has not gotten any blockers during the first three rounds of the draft since 2005, when it picked tackle Michael Roos in the second round (41st overall).
“It needs to be a player that you see coming into your team and making a difference, upgrading you, and possibly being an outstanding player at the position,” Webster, now in his second year as general manager, said. “I’ve never been one to say you don’t take a guard in the first round, or whatever. … I’ve never looked at it that way. If there’s somebody there that’s a special player, then we’ll take a look at him.”
According to NFL pre-draft rankings, four of the top eight offensive linemen available in 2013 are guards, led by Alabama’s Chance Warmack, the No. 1 overall offensive line prospect, and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper. Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick is the top center, one of the top 10 linemen and a likely selection within the first three rounds.
“Hopefully will spend some time with [Warmack and Cooper] in the next couple of days,” Munchak said. “Warmack, being in the SEC, we’ve seen a lot of him play. He’s one of those guys, that no doubt, is getting a lot of attention. He’s a guy that is special at what he does. He knows how to win, so it’s a lot of things he brings to the party.
“If you need a guard, that’s a guy you’re going to think about taking anywhere in the draft.”
Then again, a team can wait and still potentially find help at that position. Webster called the talent pool at guard “pretty deep.”
Whether early or late, it seems safe to assume that the Titans are going to select at least one, if not more.
“We need some help inside,” Munchak said. “We’re going to take a good look in free agency, which we will here in the next month and the draft. It’s a huge year for offensive linemen. I always think it’s a good year for offensive linemen. I think there’s more name guys that people know from top to bottom.
“I think that’s what you look at in a draft like this. All the options are on the table, as far as how we’re going to fix on the inside.”