The Titans only big acquisition yesterday was in signing former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster. In reality, it might be better to adopt the new fangled term “offensive weapon” when talking about McCluster because he can play wide receiver, running back and is a threat in the return game. He signed a 3 year $12 million dollar contract with $4.5 million guaranteed.
McCluster was a 2nd round pick by the Chiefs in 2010 out of Ole Miss. In college, he was primarily a running back but was widely used also as a wide receiver. His quickness and versatility was highly touted coming out of college but his 40 time was a bit of a disappointment. At 5′ 9″ and 172 he posted a 4.58. Additionally, his hand size was considered less than ideal at 8 3/8.
With the Chiefs, he quickly saw action early in his rookie season. In 2010 he played roughly half of the offensive snaps and saw time at both wide receiver and running back. He played in 11 games and finished with 18 regular season rushing attempts for 71 yards (3.9 YPC), a long run of 20 yards and 1 lost fumble.
In 2010, the only touchdown on offense he recorded was as a wide receiver though he did have a punt return for a touchdown. He was targeted 39 times and finished with 21 receptions for 209 yards (10.0 YPR), a long catch of 31 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. He had 13 punt returns for 202 yards, a long return of 94 yards and 1 touchdown. He had 26 kick returns for 527 yards.
In 2011, he played all 16 games and finished with 114 touches for 516 yards (4.5 YPC), a long run of 32 yards, 1 rushing touchdown and 2 lost fumbles. He was targeted 61 times and finished with 46 receptions for 328 yards (7.1 YPR) and 1 touchdown. He had 6 punt returns for 65 yards and 25 kickoff returns for 557 yards. He played all 16 games.
McCluster production dipped a bit in 2012 as he only produced 528 all purpose yards. He was targeted 78 times and finished with 52 receptions for 452 yards (8.7 YPR) a long of 31 and 1 touchdown. He carried the ball 12 times for 70 yards (5.8 YPC), a long run of 19 and lost a fumble. He had 2 punt returns for 6 yards and no kickoff returns. He did play all 16 games.
In all fairness, the Chiefs were terrible in 2012 despite having talented players. Their quarterback situation contributed to a lot of it so it’s difficult to downgrade McCluster here. Also, he bounced back with a passion in 2013 and that cannot be discounted. Additionally, for unknown reasons McCluster fell into disfavor with former Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel. Andy Reid publicly committed to using McCluster when he became head coach and McCluster blossomed under him.
In 2013, McCluster’s numbers bounced back as he was targeted 81 times and caught 53 passes for 511 yards (9.6 YPR), a long of 43 and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, his rushing yardage was putrid with 8 attempts for 5 yards and a .6 yards per carry average. These are all regular season numbers. He added 58 punt returns for 686 yards, a long of 89 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had 1 kickoff return for 3 yards. He went to the pro bowl as a returner and played in 15 games. He missed one game with an ankle infection.
While I like this signing and it gives the Titans a lot more offensive flexibility, it is slightly concerning that McCluster never really lived up to his billing in Kansas City. In his 4 year tenure with the Chiefs, he only scored 9 touchdowns. That’s not much for an offensive weapon. Fortunately, he is going to have Ken Whisenhunt as his new head coach and he will know how to utilize him.
Looking at other numbers, his career rushing average is 4.4 yards per carry which while not bad doesn’t exactly light the world on fire. He averaged 375 receiving yards per year and 165.5 rushing yards per year. Finally, his punt return average per year was 239.75 and his kick return average was 271.5 per year. I was a bit concerned about his hands but his catch percentage actually isn’t that bad.
Some have compared McCluster to Danny Woodhead since Ken Whisenhunt coached him last year. The comparison isn’t entirely accurate but there are some similarities. Woodhead has been a far more effective runner while McCluster has been a far better returner. Still, they both are multipurpose players so in that sense the comparison works. McCluster has 1500 career receiving yards, 662 career rushing yards, and 2046 career return yards. Woodhead has one additional year on him with 1692 rushing yards, 1674 receiving yards and 758 career return yards.
The additional difference between Woodhead and McCluster is in the scoring category. Woodhead has 22 career touchdowns and an extra point conversion on his resume. McCluster’s career catch rate is 65.6 percent and while I wasn’t able to find Woodhead’s career catch rate but in 2013 it was reportedly 91 percent. Still, McCluster’s is very much acceptable.
In summary, this is a good signing by the Titans. McCluster has talent and under Coach Whisenhunt might be able to fulfill the potential you saw coming out of college. As a multipurpose weapon, his return skills will help bolster a position that wasn’t very good overall for the Titans in 2013. I expect the Titans will utilize him as well in the passing and the run game. Welcome to the Titans Dexter McCluster we look forward to watching you shine.