The Tennessee Titans have already shown that they are not afraid to reward players they consider to be part of their core.
Earlier in training camp, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was rewarded with a four-year, $60 million extension that came with two years still remaining on the current extension Casey signed in 2014.
On a lesser note, the Titans ensured that backup offensive tackle Dennis Kelly wouldn’t get away either, adding two more years to his contract.
The question now becomes whether starting inside linebacker Avery Williamson will merit an extension in minds of Coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson.
Williamson has been a mainstay starter and sure tackler since entering the starting lineup about a third of the way through his rookie season in 2014.
The Titans are not averse to in-season negotiations, as Robinson said, but thus far, there have been no contract extension talks between the Titans and Williamson, who grew up about two-and-a-half hours west of Nashville in Milan, Tenn.
“Every situation is unique. We look at every situation individually,” Robinson said. “I try to do what’s best for the team. You can’t talk to every single person. That’s just not possible. We’re proud of the guys who are here and are working, and we’re looking forward to the ’17 season.”
Williamson said he has worked this off-season to prepare himself to play his best football. Williamson has been solid in stopping the run throughout his tenure, but at times has not always been the best pass defender. That is an area he has been working to shore up this season.
“In my man-to-man coverages, I felt like I was out of position sometimes. I feel like I’ve I improved on that in OTAs and in camp,” Williamson said. “I’m trying to be more patient, and not trying to jump things and just do the things that I’ve been doing on the practice field. … In the passing game, I just want to make sure I’m more efficient and using better technique.”
Mularkey has noticed too that Williamson appears to have worked in the off-season to improve his weaknesses.
“I think Avery (Williamson) has gotten better, I really do, in a lot of ways. I think a lot of it has to do with his ability to help him cover better,” Mularkey said. “He’s faster, he’s quicker, you can tell that this guy has done something over the top to get ready for the season in the off-season in what he’s done off the field when nobody’s watching. I think it’s going to help his coverage ability, but he’s also done a lot of things that’s going to help his defense on first and second downs.”
That might even earn him some points with Robinson, who must ultimately decide if Williamson fits with the Titans long-term and at what price. One benchmark deal that might bear watching in terms of Williamson is the one Cameron Kirksey got from the Cleveland Browns in the off-season – a four-year, $38 million extension.
Williamson is hoping to show enough during this final window of opportunity to convince the Titans he should be in their long-range plans. But he won’t let the thoughts of his contract situation affect his play, if he can help it.
“I want to show them that I can be a player that is deserving of the big money. I’ve just got to go out there and put it in the back of my head and not worry about it and just go out there and do what I’ve been taught to do. I just try not to think about it at all,” Williamson said. “It’s hard, but I try go out there and have fun, because when you start focusing on that, that’s when it gets too stressful.”