NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Salary cap space and the No. 1 draft pick overall are major reasons why Jon Robinson wanted to be the Tennessee Titans’ new general manager. And any free agency or draft moves will revolve around one simple priority:
Protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“It’s important we keep Marcus upright and throwing the ball, and then so we’ve got to protect him, which starts with the offensive line, starts with the tight ends and running backs,” Robinson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “They all kind of work in unison there.”
Robinson said Super Bowl 50 provided a great reminder of just how important protecting a quarterback is in the NFL. He pointed out Denver’s protection of Peyton Manning, while sacking Cam Newton seven times - and forcing four turnovers - had a major impact on the game and was a good lesson for the Titans.
“We’ve got to protect the quarterback,” Robinson said.
Robinson, the former director of player personnel with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was hired Jan. 14 to rebuild a franchise that has gone 5-27 the past two seasons. The Titans have Mariota to build around but the No. 2 pick overall in 2014 missed four games due to injury. The Heisman Trophy winner out of Oregon sprained both knees on different occasions and missed two games after each injury.
The Titans currently have more than $20 million in salary cap space available, a number that will only jump once the salary cap is set for the 2016 league year. Not only do the Titans have the top pick overall for the first time since 1978, they will have three picks within the first 64 selections of the draft in April.
“That was one of the appealing things about this job, the options that we were going to be afforded with the draft and our positioning not only in the first round, but the second and third rounds …,” Robinson said. “With the potential amount of cap space that we’re going to have to try to maybe make some selective moves and add players, we think can help our football team.”
Since being hired, Robinson has been busy.
He was at the Senior Bowl with coach Mike Mularkey. Robinson has met with pro scouting director Brian Gardner prepping plans for free agency, which begins March 9, and also director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield. The team’s scouts came to Nashville last week for meetings planning for the NFL Combine, which starts Tuesday in Indianapolis.
“I won’t say it’s been a whirlwind, but the days have been packed in pretty good,” Robinson said.
The Titans have had their hits and misses in free agency in recent years.
Left guard Andy Levitre was their big addition in March 2013 only to be traded away last September to Atlanta for a sixth-round draft pick. Linebacker Brian Orakpo tied for the team-lead with seven sacks after being signed last March.
Robinson said the Titans will be selective in the players they chase in March.
The new general manager also has gotten some phone calls inquiring about the No. 1 pick, which Robinson expects will increase as draft draws closer.
And yes, Robinson is open to offers.
“We’re in a position where we’re not going to close any doors,” Robinson said. “Any Avenues or any doors that may come open that can help our football team and make our team a better football team, I think we’re open to listening and then discussing potential options.”
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