Over his relatively short period as GM of the Tennessee Titans, we’ve learned quite a few things about Jon Robinson. From the details regarding his draft philosophy, to how Robinson wants the entire makeup of his team to look like, Robinson’s patterns have been put out in the open and have been analyzed to the finest detail by people like myself.
One of the patterns we’ve picked up from Robinson has been his preferences when it comes to signing free agents. Who he rather prefers to sign, from what teams and programs, how much he’s willing to pay for specific players, all the necessary information has been put out in the open as the off-seasons have come and gone.
What we’ve learned is this…
First off, Jon Robinson doesn’t spend a lot of money on singular roster moves unless they’re either absolutely necessary, or unless he’s extremely comfortable with the player he’s paying a handsome amount of money to. He’s been extremely careful with how he spends cash, and won’t hesitate to keep cash on hand if a move isn’t to his liking.
Robinson has also valued the idea of connections, bringing players in that he or members of the coaching staff have run across during their years in the league, and backing up the symbolic brinks truck for players he knows on a professional and personal level.
Using these two tactics in free agency is totally fine, in fact, it’s better to play it safe with free agency when you’re just starting out as the highest level decision-maker like Robinson was back in 2016. But like all things in this world, circumstances change.
For the Titans, their on-brand philosophic approach to free agency is due for a change as well, and it’s come on the heels of the team reaching a status the organization as a whole hasn’t had since the 2007-2008 season.
A status as a true contender.
We’ll dive deep into why Jon Robinson’s team needs to change, but first, let’s look over the free agency approach the team has used since Robinson came to the team and the big deals that have emerged as a result.
Big deals have come from retaining own talent and connections
Before jumping into the meat and potatoes of this, it’s good to go back and review the philosophies Jon Robinson has followed regarding free agency.
The Titans haven’t been a team to give out big deals to players like Halloween candy to children. While big-time names have hit the market over the years, Tennessee has remained idle, preferring to focus more on retaining their own talent with big money extensions, and dipping into the big money market only every so often.
Jurrell Casey’s extension in 2017, Taylor Lewan’s in 2018, Kevin Byard’s in 2019, Derrick Henry’s and Ryan Tannehill’s last offseason… you get the point right?
But as I touched on before, while giving the “homegrown” and “home town” talent the life-changing contracts has been the norm over hastily finding replacements, dipping into the free agent market to hand over big deals hasn’t been out of the ordinary for the Titans either.
Although it’s a limited sample size, Jon Robinson has a history of handing out a big bag or two, but it hasn’t been without a little catch.
Malcolm Butler’s $61M contract in 2018, Dion Lewis’ $28M deal in the same offseason — these two players notably made numerous contributions with the New England Patriots organization, an organization as we all know is well known for its almost scary business-like approach to the game.
Robinson of course has ties to the organization, dating back to the 12 years he spent climbing his way up the organizational ladder.
Connections to the most successful run franchise in sports history is fine, giving out the big money to guys connected to that because you trust them the most is fine (in some cases). But at some point you have to spread the metaphorical wings and take some calculated risks for the betterment of your football team, especially if your football team is in a win now sort of window like Tennessee it.
No hesitation, no worrying, you can’t have a single shred of that.
Which brings me to my final point.
Premium Free Agency spending has to go beyond connections, retaining your own guys, and expense concerns in 2021
If you skim through the list of available free agents that could greatly benefit the Titans right now, you’d find very few with no connections to Robinson and his time in New England.
One is Kyle Van Noy, who admittedly would be a decent signing for Tennessee if things do go in that direction.
After from him though, there’s hardly any players with obvious connections.
But there are plenty of options available that would improve the talent the Titans have right now at their weakest positions.
EDGE rusher, linebacker, wide receiver, even the interior defensive line group has options that would help with the issue of depth.
The Tennessee Titans are in a window where if they can add some valuable talent at EDGE and address the underlying issues on the defensive side of the ball, they’re going to be in the conversation as threats to potentially represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. This is perhaps Jon Robinson’s most important offseason yet if he wants to extend the window once free agency officially opens on Wednesday.
The offense is still mostly intact, except for Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith’s pending free agencies. Will either be back in Nashville?
At some point, the Titans need to find a way to restructure a contract (or three). With some cap room to work with, Jon Robinson shouldn’t be in any position to worry about expenses and all that jazz that goes with the ever so wonderful world of negotiations.
The ball’s in Jon Robinson’s court. Will he stick to his old ways and play it safe on the market, taking his usual calculated risks, or will he go all-in on a big fish to help this team finally make the leap to true contention?
That’s what this week is for, so let’s see how it all plays out.