published Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Titans see Dexter McCluster as key add to offense

Versatile four-year pro Dexter McCluster isn't exactly sure how the Tennessee Titans and new coach Ken Whisenhunt will use him, but he's looking forward to finding out.
Versatile four-year pro Dexter McCluster isn't exactly sure how the Tennessee Titans and new coach Ken Whisenhunt will use him, but he's looking forward to finding out.
Photo by The Tennessean /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans made sure they signed Dexter McCluster as their first big move in free agency. They'll figure out exactly how to use the running back, receiver and Pro Bowl punt returner once they get him on the practice field.

McCluster signed his deal Wednesday afternoon, a day after agreeing to terms on a three-year, $12 million contract. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said they really appreciate McCluster's versatility whether at receiver or running back.

"I think he can do both," Whisenhunt said. "He's shown that. I think part of what we get to do this spring is figure out. Right now the thought is more of a running back, but he can play in the slot and do some things in that capacity too. So we're going to see what we can do with him."

The 5-foot-8 McCluster, a second-round pick out of Mississippi, has played both running back and receiver. He flourished in 2013 as a slot receiver and punt returner in Kansas City, catching a career-high 53 passes for 611 yards and two touchdowns. He returned two punts for touchdowns as he earned his first Pro Bowl trip.

His best year as a running back came in 2011 when he averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 114 rushes, but the 170-pound McCluster has been much more consistent as a receiver with at least 46 catches in each of the past three years.

McCluster said he was happy to get back in the South and with Whisenhunt after watching what the new Titans coach did with Danny Woodhead as the Chargers' offensive coordinator last season. Woodhead caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and also ran 106 times for 429 yards.

"I've obviously been able to be versatile," McCluster said. "So right now it's going to be interesting to figure it out together what I'm going to do. So right now I don't know. We don't know. We just have to figure it out."

The Titans agreed to a one-year deal Tuesday bringing back returner Leon Washington. Whisenhunt said he could envision using both McCluster and Washington on returns.

The Titans also are meeting with 49ers running back Anthony Dixon even with Chris Johnson still on the roster along with Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle. Whisenhunt said the Titans are looking for versatility.

These moves seem to signal the end of Johnson's tenure in Tennessee. He is due $8 million in 2014 with three years left on his contract. He also is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-worst 3.9 yards per carry with 1,077 yards. Whisenhunt said he has not met yet with Johnson. Asked if they have talked by phone, Whisenhunt said he would keep that in-house.

Whisenhunt also said the Titans have no timeline for decisions on players who could be released.

"We have to do what's in the best interest for the Titans," Whisenhunt said. "That's really what it's all about. I think that's what you do going forward. We want to be a good football team, so those decisions are all made with that in mind."

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