Josh Kline decision first up as Titans mull guards in free agency

Josh Kline has missed just two games due to injury since joining the Titans in 2016. Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' top priority heading into free agency should be solidifying their offense line, particularly the interior. The first decision will be what do with starting right guard Josh Kline, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins Wednesday.

It's been a fruitful market for offensive guards recently, so Kline will likely aim for a payday along the lines of the Jets' Brian Winters (four years, $29 million with $15 million guaranteed) and the Eagles' Brandon Brooks (five years, $40 million with $21 million guaranteed). Recent history says he may get it.

The Titans and Kline, 28, haven't ruled out reaching agreement before free agency begins, but a league source told ESPN they aren't close to a deal. The sides met last week at the NFL combine discussing a deal, one source said, but there remained a gap between the two sides.

Tennessee has to decide how much it is willing to spend for a guard. There is room to upgrade at one or both guard positions in free agency, but it won't come cheap. The Titans have nearly $50 million in salary-cap space, but they have several positions to address and still want to save money for pending extensions for quarterback Marcus Mariota and left tackle Taylor Lewan.

The Titans don't appear likely to spend the big money the market will likely demand to sign top guard Andrew Norwell. The next tier consists of Justin Pugh and Jack Mewhort -- solid and versatile players with injury concerns -- plus Kline and Josh Sitton.

Kline has been strong as a pass-protector and he's missed just two games due to injury over the past three seasons, but he had some struggles as a run-blocker in 2017. There's hope that, if he returned, the Titans' switch to a zone-blocking scheme would benefit him.

The Titans see a strong class of interior offensive linemen in the 2018 draft; it's unclear whether they'd be willing to count on a rookie starter.

Kline isn't the only uncertainty for the Titans. Left guard Quinton Spain is a restricted free agent. Tennessee will have to decide on a tender for Spain, an undrafted success story and starter the past two seasons for the Titans. If Spain receives a low tender, another team could try to pluck him away with a solid offer sheet without surrendering a draft pick. It's noteworthy that Spain isn't a great fit for the Titans' new blocking scheme.

Like many quarterbacks, Mariota has had struggles with pressure up the middle so it will be important for the Titans to have a strong plan at guard this offseason.