NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The somber scene in the Tennessee Titans' locker room Monday was fitting after the 2022 season mercifully came to an end Saturday night when the Titans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Enlarged pictures of game action from the season sat in front of each player's locker as they filled large garbage bags with their belongings.
Missing the playoffs seemed far-fetched after starting the season 7-3, but a seven-game losing streak to end the season made the unthinkable a reality.
With a 7-10 record, it was the first time since Mike Vrabel became the coach in 2018 that the Titans had a losing record, and this was his first losing season as a head coach.
Which leaves many questions after such a tumultuous season, so buckle up, because the offseason could be a wild ride.
What went wrong?
It was just two months ago that the Titans notched a 27-17 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 11, giving them a 93% chance to make it to the postseason.
Then it all went downhill.
Scoring points was a problem all season, especially in the second half of games, where the Titans averaged a league-worst 5.5 points. During the losing streak, Tennessee scored 20 or more points only once.
"We have to protect our quarterback better," Vrabel said. "When you don't protect your quarterback, they get hurt or turn the ball over. We have to take care of the football. We gave it to our best player [running back Derrick Henry], and he turned it over this year. He hadn't in the past."
Injuries mounted to the point where they became an insurmountable hurdle. The Titans utilized 85 different players this season, six short of the NFL-record 91 players who took the field for the Titans in 2021.
Tennessee had a total of 23 players on injured reserve, including core players such as quarterback Ryan Tannehill, linebacker Harold Landry III and offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
Changes. Big changes.
"They're going to try and bring in players that can help us win and make plays," Tannehill said. "There's definitely going to be changes."
A roster shake-up is likely in order for whoever takes over for general manager Jon Robinson, who was fired in November.
An early list of candidates the Titans have requested to interview include Buffalo Bills director of pro scouting Malik Boyd, San Francisco 49ers assistant manager Adam Peters, 49ers director of player personnel Ran Carthon, Chicago Bears assistant general manager Ian Cunningham and Cleveland Browns assistant general manager/vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook.
Titans interim general manager and vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden, along with director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, are internal candidates the team plans to interview.
It's pretty safe to say that Vrabel will remain the coach for at least another year after Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said via the team website that whoever becomes the next general manager will have to work in conjunction with Vrabel to help build the roster.
Added Vrabel, "That's the whole idea. Collaboration is critical."
Whoever takes over will have some big decisions to make. As of now, the Titans have $4.4 million in cap space, according to Roster Management, and that number could improve with restructures or veteran cuts before free agency hits.
Lewan, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, wide receiver Robert Woods and inside linebacker Zach Cunningham all have large cap numbers that make them candidates for cost-saving restructures or veteran cuts.
Key free agents
David Long Jr., inside linebacker
Nate Davis, right guard
DeMarcus Walker, defensive lineman
Austin Hooper, tight end
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons isn't listed among the key free agents because the Titans picked up his fifth-year option on his rookie deal, but he hopes to work out a long-term deal this offseason.
"I want to finish my career here if we can get a deal done this offseason," Simmons said. "I hope that’s the plan on both sides. I don't want to get into next year then something happens with the contract or we get into the offseason and I hit free agency. I love Tennessee. I want to be here. I'm sure they know that."
An ankle injury hindered Simmons since Week 8, but he posted 7.5 sacks, 9 tackles for a loss and 14 quarterback hits last season. After finishing with consecutive Pro Bowl seasons and maintaining his status as one of the NFL's most disruptive interior linemen, Simmons is looking to be paid accordingly.
What about quarterback?
Tennessee lost its final three games of the season without Tannehill, who was placed on injured reserve because of an ankle injury. Tannehill had surgery last month on the ankle but said he plans to start jogging this week.
The 11th-year veteran turns 35 in July but says he still thinks he can be an impactful player.
"I definitely have some good years left. I feel really good," Tannehill said. "Even coming off this injury I feel really good, and I’m looking forward to some bright years ahead."
Tannehill signed a four-year, $118 million contract with Tennessee in 2020. He is set to hold a $36.6 million cap number in 2023. The Titans can save around $18 million in cap space if they release him. But there aren't many options available that would warrant a change.
The Titans finished 1-4 in games that Tannehill didn't play.
As for the backup position, Joshua Dobbs played well enough to give the Titans a chance to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season finale. In two games, Dobbs completed 40 of his 68 pass attempts for 411 yards and two touchdown passes, along with two interceptions.
Dobbs will be an unrestricted free agent but said he'd like to return to the Titans.
Why wouldn't he?
A University of Tennessee product, Dobbs said that he loves the state, and Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys marked the first NFL start for the six-year veteran.
Rookie Malik Willis, who was a third-round draft pick the Titans traded up for on draft night, remains a work in progress. Vrabel challenged Willis to "continue to improve, develop and work on the things that they've continued to discuss" -- like recognizing rotations in coverages and working through progressions.
Willis said he didn't make as many plays as he wanted to but plans to work on his timing and footwork more this offseason.
The rookie didn't surpass 100 yards passing in a game this season, including three starts, and finished with 31 completions on 61 attempts for 276 yards and three interceptions. He also added a rushing touchdown.
What picks will they have?
First round, Pick 11 overall
Second round, Pick 41 overall
Third round, Pick 72 overall
Fourth round, Pick 144 overall
Sixth round, Pick 172 overall
Seventh round, Pick 206 overall
What about the assistant coaches?
The offensive struggles that the Titans have endured are well documented. Tennessee averaged 17.5 points per game (28th in the league), which put offensive coordinator Todd Downing in the crosshairs.
Downing was relieved of his playcalling duties along with offensive line coach Keith Carter and offensive skills assistant Erik Frazier. Vrabel also fired secondary coach Anthony Midget.
It should be noted that the Titans hired Tim Kelly to be the pass game coordinator last offseason. Vrabel put in a request to interview Kelly for the Titans' offensive coordinator job in 2021 when he was with the Houston Texans, but the interview was declined.