Titans need to keep free agents Ryan, Conklin

Friday, January 31, 2020, Vol. 44, No. 5

Cornerback Logan Ryan, center, celebrates with his teammates after his interception return for a touchdown that sealed the Titans’ first round playoff win at New England. Ryan, lineman Jack Conklin, running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill are the Titans’ top free agents.

-- Photo By Logan Bowles | Ap

As the Tennessee Titans enter the offseason, it would appear to be a given that they need to bring back both quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry.

That would seem to be the case, unless general manager Jon Robinson suddenly feels the urge to start from scratch in 2020 after the team finished one step shy of reaching the Super Bowl.

In addition to those two, who were busy representing the Titans at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, there are other two other free agents Robinson and the Titans need to try to keep, if possible.

Cornerback Logan Ryan and right tackle Jack Conklin, whose contracts are up, were key pieces for the Titans this past season and there are no guarantees either will be back in Tennessee next season.

Ryan, who signed as a free agent from the New England Patriots in 2017, was very pragmatic about his future.

Offensive tackle Jack Conklin, center, bounced back from serious injury to help Derrick Henry win the NFL rushing title and carry the Titans to the AFC Championship Game. He will be in high demand as a free agent this offseason.

-- Photo By Nick Wass | Ap Photo

“If I could see the future, then I’d start betting on games like they did in ‘Back to the Future,’” Ryan says. “But I don’t think anybody knows that. I spoke with Jon, and he doesn’t know that. I kid you not.

“All I wanted to do was pour my heart and soul into this franchise. I wanted to make it a better place. If I were to leave, I wanted to make it a better place than when I came in.

“I feel like I did that, and I signed up for three years. That’s what the Titans offered me. I took it, moved my family down here. I gave them three years, played in every game I possibly could, played every snap with my heart and soul, and right now, I’m looking for a job. “Hopefully, if they can extend it and work something out. That’d be great, but as of right now, that’s what my contract was, and I fulfilled my end of the bargain, and they did, as well, and we had a great run this year.”

Ryan had his best season in 2019, picking off four passes, forcing four fumbles and recording 4.5 sacks as a nickel blitzer.

“I think it was a great marriage for both sides, me coming here,” adds Ryan, who turns 29 next month. “I told them I was happy, and they believed in me, allowing me to expand my role. Leaving New England allowed me to grow as a player and a leader, and I think I was able to do that.”

As for Conklin, the Titans gambled earlier this offseason by not picking up his fifth-year option and allowing his contract to expire. And now they might have to pay a steeper price to keep the right tackle, if they want him.

Conklin was coming off an injury-riddled 2018 campaign and was still recovering from ACL surgery performed after the 2017 playoffs. As a result, he played in just nine games and wasn’t close to his pre-injury form.

Early in the season, the 2016 first-round pick was still shaking off some of the rust, and there was speculation through last offseason that Conklin might be better off moved inside to right guard. But Conklin continued to work and progress and became a big part of Henry’s success in the run game.

Now, there is speculation that Conklin, who won’t turn 26 until August, could even garner attention as a possible left tackle, if he gets to the open market.

“I definitely gained a lot of confidence back. I felt good, no injuries, and I couldn’t have asked for a better year health-wise and just getting back to myself,” Conklin explains.

Conklin admits he would love to stay with the Titans, but does not know what the future holds for him.

“I would love to be back here, but with how free agency works, you don’t really know how it’s going to happen,” Conklin continues. “We’ll have to see how it all rolls out, but I would be excited to be back here. I definitely think this team is just starting to take off, and I’d love to be back here.”

Those are decisions the Titans – and the players with expiring contracts – will have to sort through in the coming weeks.

Roster change is inevitable, and decisions become even tougher and more impactful with the Titans seemingly on the verge of something special.