NASHVILLE, Tenn. — General manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey promised a makeover of the Tennessee Titans’ roster before the regular season when the duo was formally introduced in January, and they took their biggest step thus far on Friday.
Neither high draft status nor prior Pro Bowl honors provided any safety as the Titans waived and released 22 players Friday to reach the NFL’s 53-man roster a day before Saturday’s league-wide deadline.
The Titans waived a pair of second-round draft picks in wide receiver Justin Hunter, who they traded up to select in 2013, and Bishop Sankey, the first running back drafted in 2014, along with last year’s third-round pick offensive tackle Jeremiah Poutasi who started seven games as a rookie.
They also released running back Dexter McCluster, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2013 with Kansas City and was a captain for Tennessee last season.
Mularkey said they simply added players at those positions that played well consistently.
“Obviously, we’ve got some numbers at those spots that we feel like we can go into a game with,” Mularkey said. “And like we said from the very beginning, the guys that are the most consistent and play at a level that we like them to play at those will be the guys on the final roster and that played a factor into it.
Hunter has 68 catches for 1,116 yards in his three years with injuries ending each of the last two seasons. Sankey started only 12 of 29 games as the 54th pick overall with just 762 yards rushing.
The Titans now no longer have a second-round pick from any draft between 2011 and 2015. Robinson, who replaced Ruston Webster in January, traded for DeMarco Murray and drafted Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to bolster the running back position. The GM also signed veteran Rishard Matthews, drafted Tajae Sharpe and then added Andre Johnson in July at receiver.
Mularkey said he and Robinson had been talking so much about the roster that it simply made sense to go ahead and make the cuts Friday. After going 3-13 last season and winding up with the top overall draft pick, the Titans have first claims off the waiver wire as the rest of the league pares its rosters down.
“We’re pretty well set with the roster until we get a chance to look at the waiver wire,” Mularkey said.
As the roster stands, the Titans have three quarterbacks with Alex Tanney joining Marcus Mariota and veteran Matt Cassel for now. They also have five wide receivers with Johnson and Tre McBride, who will also return kicks, rounding out that group. Rookie safety Kevin Byard, their first pick in the third round, will return punts.
Undrafted rookie free agent Mehdi Abdesmad is on the roster for now at defensive end. Mularkey said the lineman played well in the Titans’ win Thursday night at Miami to wrap up the preseason. Cornerback Cody Riggs also is on the roster for a second straight year as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame.
With the cuts made, Mularkey said the Titans can turn their focus to Minnesota, their opponent in the season opener on Sept. 11.
Notes: Henry, who wore No. 2 this preseason, now will switch to No. 22 for the regular season. That was the number McCluster had the past two seasons. … Others waived included FB Sam Bergen; TEs Jerome Cunningham and Alex Ellis; RB David Fluellen; LBs Curtis Grant, Justin Staples and J.R. Tavai; WRs Ben Roberts and Andrew Turzilli; CBs B.W. Webb, and Kalan Reed; C Ronald Patrick; S Marqueston Huff and Curtis Riley; K Aldrick Rosas; NT Antwaun Woods and OL Ronald Patrick, Tyler Marz and Will Poehls.