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Big-spending Titans see L'Jarius Sneed as key piece of revamped secondary

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans revamped their secondary with a pair of brand new starting cornerbacks, signing Chidobe Awuzie and trading with Kansas City for L'Jarius Sneed.

Can they be the NFL 's best?

General manager Ran Carthon said Tuesday that's up for them to decide.

“We paid a lot of money to get those two guys on the outside,” Carthon said. "So I expect those guys to play, you know, really well.”

The Titans introduced Sneed on Tuesday after capping a spending frenzy to start free agency. Tennessee had to trade with Kansas City with the Chiefs using the non-exclusive franchise tag on Sneed.

Sneed got a new contract making him the NFL's fifth-highest paid cornerback at an average of $19.4 million. He now has the fourth-highest guaranteed money among cornerbacks with $55 million, according to Spotrac.com. Awuzie got a three-year deal for $36 million with $23 million guaranteed.

Carthon credited Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk along with fellow owners Kenneth and Barclay Adams with approving their plan for free agency. Tennessee has spent $306.4 million in free agency and extensions — most in the NFL per Spotrac.com.

“We came in with a targeted plan and idea of what we wanted to do,” Carthon said.

Sneed was seen as one of the top cornerbacks available as someone Kansas City allowed to roam and defend each opponent's top receiver. As a fourth-round pick at No. 138 overall in 2020 out of Louisiana Tech, Sneed expects that to continue in Tennessee.

He'll be working for new defensive coordinator Dennard Wilson and Chris Harris, who was retained as the Titans' passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach.

The Titans introduced Sneed on Tuesday after announcing the trade late last week. Carthon pointed to logistics with Tennessee agreeing to the deal just before the NFL spring owners meetings and Sneed needing to pass a physical as well.

“I just feel like I deserve to be known to be the highest paid off of my season that I had last year," Sneed said. "That’s why I wanted to shoot that number up there high, and I feel that I deserved it.”

Sneed said money won't change anything about how aggressively he plays. He ranked second on the Chiefs last season with 17 penalties during the regular season because Sneed's not afraid to get his hands on wide receivers.

He's looking forward to testing both of the Titans' wide receivers — three-time All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins and their other big free agent addition in Calvin Ridley. Sneed said they've both talked at each other during games and he doesn't think anyone else runs routes like Ridley.

Does Sneed care which receiver he lines up against when practices begin?

“Both of them are great receivers, so whoever lines up in front of me that’s who’s going to get the work," Sneed said.

Adding Sneed and Awuzie helps Tennessee upgrade a position that has been an issue after trying to fix it through the draft. Caleb Farley, the 22nd pick overall in 2021, has played only 12 games. The Titans let Kristian Fulton, a second-rounder in 2020, leave in free agency this spring.

Only Roger McCreary, the 35th pick overall in 2022, has been healthy and available. Now he gives the Titans flexibility along with Awuzie, who began his NFL career in Dallas as the 60th pick overall out of Colorado in 2017, before starting 74 of 86 games with Cincinnati.

Sneed has 10 career interceptions, Awuzie has six and McCreary two in his first two seasons. That helps a defense that had just six picks all of last season. News the Titans had traded for Sneed prompted two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons to applaud the move on social media.

“That secondary!!! Yes lawd! Help me help you!” Simmons wrote.

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