NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans capped their second night of the 2022 NFL draft by trading up and selecting a quarterback.
Team management insisted making Malik Willis of Liberty the third quarterback taken in this draft was simply about picking the best player available. But it could create competition at the position, even if incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill has the league's highest salary-cap figure and is coming off a down season.
"We'll see how it shakes out," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. "You can't have enough of them. We saw that last year when we went through 91 different players."
In their third trade of this draft, the Titans dealt the 90th and 169th selections to the Las Vegas Raiders to move up to No. 86 and pick Willis. In addition to Tannehill and now Willis, Tennessee has Logan Woodside and Kevin Hogan as quarterbacks on their current roster.
"I don't think anybody's going to be able to talk about anybody's future tonight," coach Mike Vrabel said.
The Titans started their night by selecting cornerback Roger McCreary of Auburn at No. 35 overall. McCreary was the third pick in the second round after Tennessee traded out of the first round from the No. 26 selection with the New York Jets on Thursday night.
The Titans picked Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere with the 69th overall pick for an option at right tackle before making Willis their third offensive player in this draft.
The 6-foot, 219-pound Willis threw for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns last season with 12 interceptions. He also ran for 13 touchdowns. For his career, Willis finished with 48 touchdowns passes and 29 touchdown runs.
Willis was in Las Vegas for the first night at the draft, then rented out a bowling alley for Friday because he didn't have another suit for the green room. Like the Titans' other selections so far this year, Willis visited the team before the draft.
"I really think we clicked out at the combine and after my pro day and every time we got a chance to meet," he said.
Tannehill is coming off a season in which he was sacked 47 times and had 14 interceptions — his most since his second season in the NFL — though he threw for 3,734 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for seven scores to help the team earn the AFC's top seed for the postseason. This will be the third year on the four-year contract he signed, and he counts $38.6 million against the salary cap.
And fans have been angry at Tannehill since his three interceptions in a 19-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round of the playoffs in January, the last pick coming with 20 seconds left.
Tennessee cut left guard Rodger Saffold and reserve lineman Josh Kline to create salary cap space in March. David Quessenberry, who started every game last season at right tackle, was a restricted free agent the Titans chose not to tender from a unit that gave up 47 sacks last season.
They signed Jamarco Jones from the Seattle Seahawks and also have Dillon Radunz, a second-round pick from North Dakota State a year ago.
Petit-Frere was a two-year starter for Ohio State at right tackle, starting 20 of 35 games played. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder was an All-Big Ten first-team selection in 2021 and played on three straight teams that won the conference championship. A strong run blocker, he helped the Buckeyes rank first nationally in total offense and scoring offense.
Tennessee's new offensive lineman is ecstatic at the thought of being able to block for two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry, calling it a "blessing."
"There's only a few people that you can say, 'Hey, I got a chance to block for ...' that would make you be able to have stories about — and to be able to block for someone like Derrick Henry, one of the best running backs in the league, one of the best running backs ever to play college football," Petit-Frere said.
He and McCreary join Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks, whom the Titans drafted at No. 18 after trading receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.
McCreary was a first-team All-American who had 135 career tackles with six interceptions and 32 passes broken up. He joins a young secondary with Caleb Farley, a first-round selection a year ago who's recovering from a torn ACL; Kristian Fulton, a 2020 second-round pick; and Elijah Molden, a third-round pick a year ago.
"I feel like I will come in and do great with my skill set because I'm a corner that can play a lot of zone, too," McCreary said.