Very few expected former Liberty quarterback Malik Willis to slip into the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but that is exactly where the Tennessese Titans were able to trade up into the No. 86 slot and draft the talented quarterback. Willis, who was widely expected to be a first round pick, was the third quarterback taken off the board in this year’s draft.
He joins a Tennessee franchise that is at a fork in the road. Do they continue to build with running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, or do they now turn their attention to the future?
Tannehill will enter the 2022 season as the starter in Nashville. The 33-year old has led the Titans to three straight playoff berths. He completed 67.2% of his pass attempts in 2021 for 3,734 yards and 21 touchdowns, but the Titans don’t seem content with just making the playoffs they want to compete for a Super Bowl.
Veteran wide receiver Julio Jones has been released since the end of the 2021 season and wide receiver A.J. Brown was traded during the draft. Tannehill has two years remaining on his contract, but that contract offers no guarantees after the season and Tennessee can free up $17.8M of cap to move on after the 2022 season.
Logan Woodside has served as Tannehill’s backup since 2019. He played his college ball at Toledo and was selected in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft before being waived just ahead of the 2018 season. Woodside briefly signed with the Titans on their practice squad for a few weeks in 2018 and then was drafted in the third round of the 2019 AAF QB Draft. After the AAF suspended football operations, Woodside re-signed with the Titans in April 2019. He is currently on a one-year non-guaranteed contract.
On Saturday, less than 24 hours after Willis was drafted by the Titans, his new team released quarterback Kevin Hogan. He had joined the Titans last November as a member of the practice squad. He appeared in one game in mop-up duty in a blowout loss at New England.
Willis will certainly have a chance to beat out Woodside to be the backup quarterback during the summer heading into the start of the 2022 season. The Titans could keep three quarterbacks on their roster this coming season, or, if Willis performs as expected, could opt to put Woodside on the practice squad.
While Willis may not be in line to start during the 2022 season, he enters an organization with a great opportunity to learn behind a veteran starter in Ryan Tannehill and adjust to an NFL style of play. Regardless of what happens during his rookie year in Tennessee, he was selected by the Titans based on the long-term outlook.
Willis will have low expectations on him this fall and can adjust to the NFL at his own pace. If Tannehill struggles and Willis has shown growth as the season matures, we could see the rookie on the field some this coming season.