NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans kicked off the first day of NFL free agency by agreeing to terms with Chiefs running back, receiver and kick returner Dexter McCluster, said a person familiar with the situation.
A person familiar with the former Ole Miss star’s deal spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the deal had not been announced in minutes after free agency started. The person said the three-year deal is for $12 million with $4.5 million in guaranteed money.
The Titans had no immediate comment, but McCluster wrote on Twitter, “Very excited to join the (at)TennesseeTitans.”
Kick returner Leon Washington told the AP he had a deal to return to Tennessee, and the Titans announced that one-year contract later Tuesday afternoon.
“Leon came in last year and was the consummate professional,” general manager Ruston Webster said in a statement. “He stabilized our return game and we are excited to sign him back.”
McCluster was switched between wide receiver and running back early in his career but flourished in 2013 as a slot receiver and punt returner for new Kansas City coach Andy Reid. The former second-round pick out of Ole Miss caught a career-high 53 passes for 611 yards and two touchdowns, and also had two punt return touchdowns, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
That production was a big reason why Kansas City went from two wins in 2012 to 11-5 and the playoffs last season. But that also made McCluster too pricy for the cash-strapped Chiefs to bring back.
His versatility could be why the Titans want him for new coach Ken Whisenhunt. McCluster’s best year as a running back came in 2011 when he averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 114 rushes. He’s been much more consistent as a receiver with at least 46 catches in each of the past three years. He also offers an option on special teams with his three career TDs on punt returns.
This deal could put the Titans closer to a move with Chris Johnson, due $8 million this season with three years left on the $53.5 million contract extension he signed in 2011. He is coming off his second-worst rushing performance with 1,077 yards and a career-low 3.9-yard average, and the Titans also have Shonn Greene and recently signed Jackie Battle to a new deal.
Washington provided a big boost to Tennessee’s special teams over the final five games last season. The eight-year veteran averaged 13 yards on punt returns for the Titans and also had a 95-yard return at Denver.
“Leon came in last year and was the consummate professional,” general manager Ruston Webster said in a statement. “He stabilized our return game and we are excited to sign him back to our roster.”