Jon Robinson

Titans Extend GM Jon Robinson’s Contract

The Titans signed Mike Vrabel to a five-year deal this offseason to be their new head coach. Their GM, Jon Robinson, now has a deal to match. Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk tells Paul Kuharsky that she extended Robinson’s contract to take him through the 2022 campaign. 

I’ve put them on schedule,” she joked.

The Titans hired Robinson in 2016 and the Titans have been on the right track since then. They have gone 18-14 under Robinson’s watch and they qualified for the playoffs in 2018, giving them their first postseason berth since 2008.

The Titans didn’t have the flashiest offseason in the NFL, but Robinson did make some moves of note. The Titans signed cornerback Malcolm Butler to a massive five-year, $61.25MM deal and also added fellow former Patriot Dion Lewis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Hire Mike Vrabel As Head Coach

Less than a week after the departure of Mike Mularkey, the Titans have found his replacement in Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, the team announced SaturdayMike Vrabel

The former Patriots linebacker is set to be introduced at a press conference on Monday. Terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed. Vrabel becomes the 19th head coach in franchise history and the fourth since 2011.

Vrabel met with team general manager Jon Robinson and instantly hit it off, according to Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk. “You could see their connection right away from the history they have with one another – seeing the game in a similar way and talking the same language. Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity,” she said.

The chemistry should come as no surprise, as both were members of the Patriots organization –Vrabel as a player and Robinson as a scout.

“This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life,” Vrabel said. “I am excited to get to work & that work starts now. Everything we do is going to be geared towards winning & being physical.”

Vrabel, 42, served one season as Houston’s defensive coordinator after beginning his NFL coaching career as a linebackers coach with the Texans for three seasons. The 14-year NFL veteran won three Super Bowls as a player, spending the majority of his career in New England. He earned one Pro Bowl and one First Team All-Pro selection (2007).

Despite being highly thought of around the league, Vrabel’s first season as defensive coordinator did not jump off the page. Houston’s defense finished last in points allowed, middle of the pack in yards and in the bottom 10 in sacks.

At the outset of the search, Robinson made it clear he wanted a “leader of men.” It was thought Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was that leader, but Vrabel wowed Robinson in their meeting on Wednesday and the team never met with McDaniels. The team also interviewed Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Titans’ Mike Mularkey Firing

Mike Mularkey‘s season-ending press conference played a role in his firing. The Titans had announced their two-year head coach would be back in 2018 and given him a contract extension, but reversed course and fired him on Monday morning.

Jon Robinson said that decision was made Monday morning and added Mularkey’s comments Sunday played a role in this ouster (Twitter links via Jim Wyatt of Titans.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Mularkey did not appear ready to make changes to his offensive staff, and it’s clear Robinson felt they were probably necessary.

Tennessee’s GM made clear Marcus Mariota‘s development will be the “highest priority,” per longtime NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Mariota regressed from 2016-17 despite steering the Titans to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and giving the franchise its first postseason win since the 2003 campaign. The former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick threw for a career-low 13 touchdown passes — after firing 26 in 2016 — and a career-high 15 interceptions. DeMarco Murray‘s yards-per-carry figure also plummeted by nearly a yard for a Titans offense that ranked 18th in DVOA.

While Robinson made it clear all of Mularkey’s assistants were under contract (Twitter link via Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com) it’s likely some (if not most) will be searching for new jobs soon. Kuharsky tweets Robinson and team president Steve Underwood informed Mularkey of his firing, not controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

Mularkey’s stubbornness regarding tailoring his scheme to Mariota’s talents helped do him in as Titans HC, Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com writes. Mularkey wanted to bring back his offensive staff, Wolfe reports.

The Titans are planning to interview Mike Vrabel and Steve Wilks, and hiring a defensive coach would represent a first since Jeff Fisher. A Josh McDaniels pursuit may have broken down in part because of timing, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets.

AFC South Notes: Orr, Titans, Texans, Colts

A number of teams are interested in Zach Orr, with his agent relaying that about half of the league has contacted him regarding the linebacker. Some teams are standing pat, though. The Titans appear to be one of them. Tennessee is content with its linebacker situation, and according to Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com (on Twitter), has not reached out to Orr. The Titans have Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard penciled in to start on the inside of their 3-4 scheme. That’s been the team’s arrangement inside for the past three seasons, since Woodyard migrated east from Denver, and it looks like the team will roll with this duo for a fourth campaign as Williamson enters his contract year.

Orr’s Lions visit concluded Friday, and he subsequently made the trip to Indianapolis to meet with the Colts. The fourth-year linebacker’s Jets powwow will occur after the Colts summit ends.

Here’s more regarding Orr and the latest out of the AFC South.

  • Orr told SiriusXM (Twitter links) that he feels great, despite his condition. Orr explained that he’s dealing with a birth defect, but not something that is necessarily an injury. Orr also responded to talk of him cherry-picking medical opinions in an effort to get the diagnosis that he wanted. The 25-year-old says that he retired after seeing only one doctor, but the rest of doctors he spoke with say he’s not a greater risk.
  • ESPN.com’s Field Yates recalls Jon Robinson enduring scrutiny for only getting reserve offensive lineman Dennis Kelly from the Eagles in last summer’s Dorial Green-Beckham trade (Twitter link). Now that Philly cut Green-Beckham after one season, the second-year Titans GM’s decision doesn’t look so short-sighted. A former fifth-round pick of the Andy Reid-era Eagles in 2012, Kelly played in 145 snaps last season and suited up for all 16 Titans games. DGB’s talent will make him one of the more interesting waiver cases in recent years, but he’s now seen two NFL teams give up on him after one season. This comes after he transferred to Oklahoma only to sit out his junior year in 2014. The last time Green-Beckham played for the same team in consecutive seasons was during his freshman and sophomore campaigns at Missouri.
  • The Colts‘ early-season schedule and Chris Ballard‘s presence make Chuck Pagano a hot-seat candidate if the sixth-year Indianapolis leader doesn’t get the team off to a strong start, ESPN.com’s AFC South reporters posit. The Colts have started three straight seasons 0-2 but this year have the Rams, Browns, 49ers and Jaguars in their first seven games. Pagano not being Ballard’s handpicked coach figures to have him as a lame-duck candidate if the Colts are unable to return to the playoffs, however.
  • The Texans want Will Fuller to concentrate on developing as a wide receiver instead of focusing on the return game, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle notes. The speedster out of Notre Dame averaged 15 yards per punt return (11 returns) and took back one punt for a touchdown as a rookie. McClain notes backup running back Tyler Ervin has a chance to be a double-duty specialty player. Fuller’s status and kick returner Akeem Hunt‘s uncertainty to make Ervin a candidate to serve as Houston’s kick- and punt-return man.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Titans GM Discusses Offseason, Draft, Free Agency

General manager Jon Robinson‘s first year on the job perhaps went better than expected. The Titans finished with nine wins for the first time since 2011, and it’s pretty clear that the young squad is ready to be an AFC South contender for years to come.

Jon RobinsonOf course, in order to maintain that success, the front office has to make smart decisions during the offseason. Fortunately, all of the team’s impending free agents could easily be replaced, although that surely means the team would be seeking some help at defensive back, offensive line, and defensive line.

With more than $60MM in cap space and a pair of first-round picks, it’s likely that the Titans can build upon their impressive 2016 campaign.

Robinson appeared at the “Tailgate & Tuxedos” event for season-ticket holders this past week, and he discussed parts of his offseason strategy with Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. We’ve compiled the notable quotes below…

On how the front office weighs drafting “best player available” or “position of need”:

“A lot of that plays off what we do in free agency, and that period starts here in a couple of weeks. We’ve already evaluated those free agent prospects and once we get to the draft there’s really three or four different things you can do. You can trade the pick, which we were able to do last year, you can address a need position.

“Hopefully the best player available and your need kind of meet — that is the perfect storm, which is kind of what happened last year when we took Jack (Conklin) with the first pick. So you take every situation and look at it and make the best decision possible.”

On which positions he’ll pursue in the draft:

“Good football players. We are looking for good football players at every position. You can never have enough of those.”

On his game plan for free agency:

“You have a game plan, sometimes things change. The financial component comes into team building. … We have a game plan together and we are looking forward to it in a couple of weeks when free agency hits and we try to continue to build the team.”

AFC Notes: Titans, Texans, Steelers, Jaguars

Less than a year after swinging a blockbuster trade to give up the No. 1 position in the 2016 draft, Titans general manager Jon Robinson isn’t ruling out more bold maneuverings this offseason. While Tennessee has the fifth and 18th picks in this year’s draft, Robinson told Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com that “it would be a mistake” to assume he’ll end up selecting in those spots. Robinson also implied that, if anything, he’ll move down again. The Titans are without a second-round pick, but they would “love” to have one, Robinson said. “Draft currency is a powerful thing in this league because it gives you a chance to acquire young talent,’’ he added. “They are less expensive players than guys who have played in the league six, seven or eight, nine or 10 years. So to be able to get two of those guys, or one of those guys if we trade, or three of those guys if we trade. … Whatever it is, draft picks are valuable currency as it relates to team building.”

More from the AFC:

  • The Texans retained Romeo Crennel on Wednesday, shifting him from defensive coordinator (Mike Vrabel‘s new role) to assistant head coach. While Crennel’s contract was set to expire later this month, he would not have left Houston for another team this offseason, reports Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Crennel, 69, was either going to remain on head coach Bill O’Brien‘s staff or retire.
  • Speaking of O’Brien, he will not hire an offensive coordinator to replace George Godsey, per Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). As expected, O’Brien will call the Texans’ offensive plays. He has also moved Sean Ryan from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach.
  • In the wake of Tuesday’s news that suspended Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant will soon apply for reinstatement, agent Thomas Santanello told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his client is “clean” and “on a mission to come back” (via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk). Bryant, 24, is currently serving his second substance abuse-related ban – this one a yearlong suspension – since he entered the NFL in 2014, but Santanello insists the highly talented offensive weapon has put his drug issues behind him. “He’s working out four days a week, watches film. He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. He’s added 10 pounds of solid muscle. He’s a new person,” Santanello continued.
  • Bills outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich is likely to interview with the Jaguars on Wednesday for a job on their defensive staff, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN. Rebrovich previously worked under newly named Jags head coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo and at Syracuse.

AFC Notes: Jets, Titans, Bills, Raiders

While the Jets have two recently drafted quarterbacks on their roster in 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty and 2016 second-rounder Christian Hackenberg, the franchise has little faith in either, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. General manager Mike Maccagnan opined Thursday that Petty has starting-caliber potential, but the organization only regards him as a backup behind the scenes, according to Mehta. Petty struggled mightily this season in his first taste of NFL action, completing 56.4 percent of attempts, tossing three touchdowns against seven interceptions and posting a 60.0 passer rating in parts of six games. Hackenberg wasn’t even active until Week 17, when he backed up Ryan Fitzpatrick, and a team source scoffed at the notion Thursday that the ex-Penn State Nittany Lion could be the Jets’ long-term solution. “He will never make it,” the source told Mehta. “Never.” Although Maccagnan stated that Hackenberg made progress during the season, the executive also implied that the Jets will look for an outside starter, revealing that “all options are on the table.”

More from New York and three other AFC cities:

  • As a reward for a strong debut season as the Titans’ GM, controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk decided Thursday to make Jon Robinson the second-highest-ranking member of the organization. Robinson is now the team’s executive vice president/GM after helping the Titans go from three wins in 2015 to nine victories this season. “This is an acknowledgement of his work and it puts him on equal footing with others in the league who direct football operations,” Strunk said in a statement (via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com).
  • Woody Johnson could be under consideration to become the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom when President-elect Donald Trump takes office later this month, but the Jets’ owner downplayed it as speculation Thursday, per the Associated Press. If chosen, Johnson would reportedly hand control of the Jets over to his brother until the appointment ends.
  • Bills linebacker and pending free agent Zach Brown posted a message Thursday on Instagram referring to his time in Buffalo in the past tense, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com points out (on Twitter). After spending the first three years of his career in Tennessee, Brown signed a modest deal with the Bills last April. The 27-year-old then emerged as a major bargain, playing 16 games for the fourth time in a row and totaling an AFC-high 149 tackles to go with four sacks and two forced fumbles. Brown, whom Pro Football Focus graded an impressive 17th among 89 qualified linebackers, should fare much better on the open market this offseason.
  • The Raiders are still optimistic that Matt McGloin will be able to serve as the primary backup to Connor Cook in Saturday’s wild-card game round game in Houston, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. “Moxy,” who’s dealing with a shoulder injury, got some light work in Wednesday.
  • The Jets worked out Olympic sprinter Tre Houston on Thursday, writes Mehta. Houston competed in the 200 meters for Bermuda at the 2016 Rio Games and projects as a wide receiver.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Miller, Jaguars, Titans, Shelton

Let’s take a look at some notes out of the AFC on this Saturday evening…

  • It might be in Von Miller‘s best interest to sit out the majority of next season, writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. The reigning Super Bowl MVP would earn $5.81MM if he sits out until Week 10, and the Broncos would presumably pass on slapping Miller with the franchise tag next offseason. If they did, Miller could sit out again, earning $6.98MM for another seven-game season. In this scenario, Miller would be in line for a 44-percent raise or the quarterback franchise tender for 2018. When all is said and done, the 27-year-old could end up making at least $36MM for 30 games over three seasons.
  • Dwayne Gratz started 13 games for the Jaguars during the 2014 season, but the cornerback may have issues even making next year’s roster. As Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com writes, with Aaron Colvin, Davon House, Prince Amukamara and Jalen Ramsey presumably ahead of him on the depth chart, the 26-year-old recognizes that he’s simply competing for a roster spot. “It’s going to be big,” Gratz said. “I have to understand it’s not a given and that if I don’t do my job, I won’t end up on this team, which I would like to be a part of because a lot of special things are going to happen. I understand the situation I’m in.”
  • The Titans made a variety of moves this past offseason, and general manager Jon Robinson addressed those moves while speaking at the Nashville Sports Council Reception last Tuesday. “We did what we thought was the best for the football team,” he said (via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com). “As I’ve said before, this is a city and a state and a team that I am very passionate about. It’s a special place for me, and I want it to be good. And we want it to be good. We just try to make moves and position ourselves to put a product and 53 guys out there that this city and this state can be proud of.”
  • Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton lost 30 pounds this offseason, and his improved physique should allow him to stay on the field for more snaps. “He can do so many more things at the weight he’s at right now and the condition he’s in,’‘ defensive line coach Robert Nunn told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “So he’s got to keep that and time will tell. He’s the one that controls that. I can help him only so much and the strength coaches can only help him so much and Coach Jackson can only help him so much. I think he sees the difference of where he was and where he can be.”

Draft Rumors: QBs, Ramsey, Treadwell, Browns

Jalen Ramsey would prefer to play cornerback despite excelling at both secondary positions at Florida State, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports.

His preference for the higher-paying position, though, comes with the obvious caveat of being willing to play safety as well, possibly expressing malleability to increase his chances of being taken in the top three picks.

One AFC scout in attendance said, “Take your pick; either one” regarding Ramsey’s NFL fit. “He has the range; he’s got some length to him, and he has the ball skills,” the scout told O’Halloran regarding Ramsey’s ability to slot at free safety. “He has a lot of things going for him.”

Four GMs — the TitansJon Robinson, the SteelersKevin Colbert, the BuccaneersJason Licht and the BillsDoug Whaley — attended the pro day, while Mike Mularkey and Mike Tomlin were on hand as well.

Here’s the latest about this year’s crop of top prospects.

  • The 49ers and Browns are slated to work out Jared Goff, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter). Both Hue Jackson and Chip Kelly were in attendance at the Cal quarterback’s pro day March 18.
  • San Francisco also has a workout scheduled with Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports. The 49ers are expected to meet with Carson Wentz as well soon, as are the Browns, per Barrows. Cook is rated by most as the No. 4 quarterback on the board and could fall to the second round, while Wentz is expected to be chosen in the top 10. Colin Kaepernick‘s $11.9MM salary in 2016 becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the 49ers’ roster by 3 p.m., Thursday.
  • The Eagles plan to work out Wentz on Thursday, ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan tweets. Philadelphia’s brass observed Goff during a private workout on Monday. While these two passers have become the consensus top two quarterback prospects, Caplan hears from several NFL coaches and executives that Goff is better equipped to come in and contribute immediately (Twitter link).
  • Caplan also reports that one NFL offensive coordinator would sit Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, who hovers a bit below Goff and Wentz on experts’ draft boards as of now, for two seasons while the lanky talent learns the pro game (Twitter link).
  • Laquon Treadwell‘s 4.63-second 40-yard dash clocking at Ole Miss’ pro day didn’t necessarily shock scouts in attendance but caused some concerns about the first-round prospect’s long-term viability, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report hears (video link). The scouts Cole spoke with don’t believe the Ole Miss early-entry talent’s ability to get open effectively in the next four or five years will be affected by his lack of straight-line speed, but there are worries about whether Treadwell can have a long, successful career. The scouts expressed concern that once the rangy receiver loses some of his already-mediocre speed his route-running and body-positioning prowess won’t be enough to compensate.
  • The Browns are bringing in Treadwell for a visit Thursday, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Despite his lack of top-end speed, Treadwell is still expected to come off the board by the middle of the first round, which would be in the Browns’ range only if they traded down from their No. 2 overall slot or up from No. 32, Ulrich writes.
  • Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson visited the Browns today, Ulrich reports. Jackson told media at the owners’ meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., receiver is a position is an area the Browns “need to address, obviously,” as Josh Gordon‘s status for 2016 is still unknown. “I’ve gone on record before saying I like to have bigger, faster guys play the position,” Jackson told media. “We have some very talented guys right now. They’re slight in stature, but they’re tough, and I’m looking forward to working with them and see if there’s more that we can gain from them. But at the same time, I still think it’s an area that we need to get better. And we will.”

Draft Notes: Browns, 49ers, Dolphins, Titans

The Browns were in attendance for Cal quarterback Jared Goff‘s Pro Day, but Zac Jackson of ProFootballTalk.com notes that the team made the prospect go through an additional workout.

Associate head coach Pep Hamilton reportedly drenched several footballs with water and asked Goff to make additional throws. The request makes sense, as Cleveland can have unpredictable weather during the football season.

“Growing up in California, I’m sure they wanted to see that,” Goff said. “It makes sense. But at the same time I’ve played in cold weather before. I wouldn’t be the first quarterback from California to play in cold weather. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have done pretty well. They’ve been able to do it.”

Let’s take a look at some more draft notes from around the league…

  • 49ers coach Chip Kelly was also in attendance at the California Pro Day to watch Goff, tweets ESPN’s Michelle Steele.
  • Florida International cornerback Richard Leonard and Kansas running back De’Andre Mann will work out for the Dolphins, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Titans general manager Jon Robinson told reporters that it would take a “substantial amount of picks” for the team to consider trading the number-one selection in the draft (via Titans Online’s Jim Wyatt on Twitter).