Credit the Tennessee Titans for going in a different direction.

Ran Carthon didn’t run it back with the familiar faces of Mike Vrabel and Derrick Henry. The general manager made bold moves that indicate that the Titans expect to be contenders. You wonder what Tennessee knows that we don’t.

The Titans made a big free-agency splash by signing wide receiver Calvin Ridley to a four-year, $92 million deal. They traded for cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and gave him a four-year, $76.4 million extension. They also brought in center Lloyd Cushenberry for a ton of cash (4 years, $50 million). That’s a lot of moolah to commit to three players. Usually, teams that do this believe they’re a few pieces away from being a Super Bowl contender.

The betting public doesn’t believe the Titans are a serious threat to get to the Superdome in February. Only the Denver Broncos (5.5), New England Patriots (5.5), and Carolina Panthers (5.5) have lower win totals than Tennessee (6.5).

The Titans’ spending spree continues a curious offseason that saw the franchise fire Vrabel, the second-most successful head coach since the team arrived in Nashville in 1997. They also let Henry walk in an understandable move considering his age (30). Those changes signal a rebuilding year. But other moves tell a different story.

Apparently, owner Amy Adams Strunk, rookie head coach Brian Callahan, and Carthon expect to be contenders from the jump. This is despite all evidence that they look like the worst team in the AFC South. If Tennessee were in the NFC, the offseason spending would make more sense. However, in the AFC, where you must battle Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and C.J. Stroud, you’re bringing a starter pistol to a gunfight.

You can defend the Sneed deal. He’s 27. Frontline corners are hard to find and a great one like Sneed was a key part of a Super Bowl champion. However, you can take issue with some of the offensive decisions, in particular the bloated contract given to 29-year-old Ridley.

Tennessee is paying Ridley like a star when he’s never been a Pro Bowler. He’s only reached double-digit touchdowns once in his career. At his introductory press conference, Ridley said his body is much closer to 25 because of the season he missed due to being suspended for violating the NFL gambling policy. Perhaps, but that’s a substantial financial commitment to a player in the second half of his career.

The additions of Ridley, Cushenberry, and tailback Tony Pollard were made with one person in mind. The Titans are surrounding second-year quarterback Will Levis with as much talent as possible. They also own the No. 7 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, so another offensive starter could be coming.

In a salary-cap sport, the most valuable thing is to have a great quarterback on a rookie deal. Tennessee is trying to find out if Levis is their quarterback of the future. His cheap salary has allowed them to devote dollars to other areas. Levis will have at least one year to prove he can be a star. Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins are veteran wideouts. If Levis can’t show promise with them, then the Titans will move on.

Last year, while playing behind the league’s worst offensive line, Levis had eight touchdown passes and four interceptions in nine starts. He should have an improved supporting cast for 2024. Will it be enough? Levis has impressive physical talent, but the NFL graveyard is full of guys with big arms who couldn’t play.

We’ll find out this fall if the Titans’ splurge was money well spent.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.