For Jon Robinson, the first full free agency test awaits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On March 18, Jon Robinson will embark on his fifth tour of free agency as the Titans general manager.

His biggest decision regarding a Tennessee free agent before the ones coming now?

Avery Williamson, possibly. Quinton Spain, conceivably. But the decision to let those two players depart were made well before they got to market.RobinsonShades

Other decisions on whether to keep a guy or let him move on were hardly roster-rattling: Luke Stocker, Kevin Pamphile, Bennie Logan, Eric Decker, Harry Douglas, Josh Kline, Eric Walden, Brice McCain, Matt Cassel, Kendall Wright, Marc Mariani, Anthony Fasano, Chance Warmack.

I count 47 players who’ve been free agents under Robinson’s first four free agency periods.

 Because of what Robinson inherited and how he’s structured things since he arrived, he’s not been in a position for tough decisions on guys hitting the market.

Early on he didn’t have anything approaching the difficult decisions he’s facing now. Craig Stevens retired when he was a free agent in 2016, so the top of that class was Al Woods. The defensive tackle has had a nice career, but as the top guy, he didn't approach any of the four players the Titans are about to address.

As things got more complicated, Robinson avoided dealing with competition for quality players with early extensions for Taylor Lewan, Kevin Byard, Brett Kern, Jurrell Casey, Delanie Walker, Kenny Vaccaro, DaQuan Jones, Ben Jones and Succop.

Now things may change.


Three key starters on offense and one on defense are within a month of free agency, and Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, Logan Ryan and Jack Conklin will rank as the four biggest free agents of the Robinson era if they get there.

The hope is the Titans get things worked out with at least Tannehill and Henry before the new league year begins on March 18 at 3 p.m. CT. Most guys who get this close want to see how the market values them, and being courted by a new team has a whole different feeling than being courted by your current team.

But Robinson has pulled off so close-to-the-wire deals. Vaccaro signed just two days before free agency opened. The Titans' agreement with DaQuan Jones came the morning before free agency kicked off.

The 2020 window to apply tags opens Feb. 25 and closes March 10, but a tag does not prevent negotiation on a long-term deal. The opportunity for that ends July 15.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedHow the Titans handle Tannehill, Henry, Ryan and Conklin will tell us a ton about Robinson philosophically. What’s foundational? What’s replaceable? Who requires investment and how long term considering both franchise and transition tags are available?

Robinson’s decisions will extend beyond those four prominent players to other key contributors. Kamalei Correa and Dennis Kelly head that list with MyCole Pruitt, Daren Bates, Tajae Sharpe, Chris Milton and others factoring in.

It’s hardly the GMs first time. But it’s his first time with stakes this high.

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