Tennessee Titans Talking Up Malik Willis As OTAs Begin, Despite Drafting Will Levis And Still Having Ryan Tannehill

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Sure, the NFL is allowing teams to have an emergency third quarterback on standby in case of injury. But I don’t think Tennessee Titans 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis wants that role. However, he almost certainly slots behind veteran Ryan Tannehill and rookie Will Levis.

It’s possible that Mike Vrabel didn’t lie when he said Tannehill is the starter, backed up by Willis, with Levis at third-string. Sure, that was probably true when he said it, just after the NFL Draft.

But anyone with a brain understands that Malik Willis is third on the depth chart. And while having a competent third quarterback is nice, it could create problems in the QB room. So, are the Titans trying to trade Willis?

Malik Willis struggled last season for the Tennessee Titans and the team seemingly drafted Will Levis to eventually replace veteran Ryan Tannehill.
Malik Willis struggled last season for the Tennessee Titans and the team seemingly drafted Will Levis to eventually replace veteran Ryan Tannehill. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

That’s possible. And based on their praise of him during OTAs on Tuesday, that seems most likely.

He took reps after Tannehill, likely sticking to Vrabel’s initial plan of having Willis back up the veteran.

After practice, Malik Willis spoke to reporters about the addition of Levis to the roster. He kept his answers brief. He’s certainly not going to outwardly start drama on the first day of OTAs, but it seems clear he’s not thrilled about the draft pick.

“Just trying to get better everyday, focusing on what I can control,” Willis said.

Asked about what he did this offseason, Willis responded, “A lot. Been a long offseason. A lot of time since the last game we played.”

Finally, asked about Levis: “What does [having Levis here] change? You go to work the same way, it [doesn’t] matter,” Willis said.

He’s saying what he needs to say, but the team sent a clear message in drafting Will Levis.

Tennessee Titans coaches talk up Malik Willis as he competes with Ryan Tannehill, Will Levis

Despite that, those around the team are heaping praise on the second-year quarterback.

“What we asked Malik to do is come back [after the offseason] with a presence to him,” head coach Mike Vrabel said. “And it felt like he did that. He came back, and was into it, and there’s certainly a bounce to him.”

Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly echoed those sentiments.

“He’s done a great job of doing everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Kelly said. “He’s put in extra work, studying our offense, studying defensive football; Malik’s done a great job of doing all of that.”

Everyone is saying all the right things. But, really, it’s an untenable situation. Either Levis or Willis is going to be left off the active roster come Week 1. And that’s not going to sit well with either player.

So, are the Titans talking up Willis to potentially find a trade partner? Maybe. It doesn’t seem he’d have a ton of value around the league right now.

But the team has three quarterbacks and only one starting spot and one backup spot.

Something’s gotta give.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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