In a move that nearly everyone saw coming, the Tennessee Titans did not pick up the fifth-year option for inside linebacker Rashaan Evans on Monday.
The Titans informed Evans’ agent Drew Rosenhaus of their decision yesterday. Evans, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, would have been owed a $9.735 million fully-guaranteed salary for the 2022 season had Tennessee picked up his option.
“Titans informed @DrewRosenhaus that they will not be exercising LB Rashaan Evans’ 5th-year option ‘due to ongoing salary-cap uncertainty and instead hope to sign Rashaan to a contract extension before his current deal expires in 2022,’” ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted.
The 25-year-old linebacker ranked third on the team with 97 tackles last season and added five passes defensed, two tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and 0.5 sacks. He also led the team in penalties.
Evans’ best year came in 2019, when he was second on the Titans with 111 tackles. In three seasons, he has 260 tackles, 13 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for loss, six QB hurries, six QB knockdowns, six passes defensed, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Although it sounds as if the Titans want to keep Evans in their future plans, they do have options behind him should they choose not to bring him back. David Long Jr., a sixth-round pick in 2019, impressed down the stretch last year after Jayon Brown went down with a season-ending injury. The 24-year-old had 54 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in 14 games, including five starts.
Tennessee also drafted what appeared to be a potential Evans replacement in Georgia’s Monty Rice in the third round of the recent 2021 draft. The Titans appeared to reach a bit for Rice at No. 92, as most draft sites had him listed between No. 118-130. However, Rice and Evans are of similar size, and Rice was a defensive play caller in the huddle for the Bulldogs — the same thing Evans does for the Titans.
“We have good confidence in Rashaan,” Robinson said after the draft. “Monty, he'll come in and compete at the inside linebacker position on special teams. To what degree he picks up the defense and understands that and learns that and earns play time, that will be determined by him and his work ethic and based on the information that we were — that I got from Georgia. Consummate worker, loves football, works hard, leader, vocal. All those things were very positive in his favor.”
If the Titans don’t reach a contract extension with Evans, he would be the fifth of General Manager Jon Robinson’s six first-round picks from 2016 to 2020 to no longer be with the team. Jack Conklin and Corey Davis both left via free agency, Adoree Jackson was cut to clear salary cap space and Isaiah Wilson was traded after his rookie season.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_