INDIANAPOLIS _ General manager Jon Robinson seemed to be more committed to the future of Derrick Henry as a Tennessee Titan than that of Ryan Tannehill judging by his comments Tuesday at the NFL Combine.
Both Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel spoke at the Combine on Tuesday, and both predictably were vague when the questions about impending free agents were brought up in their interviews.
“We’ve got several guys, free agent guys, whose contracts are up. I’ve spoken to all those guys. We’re working through that now,” Robinson said. “We have daily discussions internally about the roster and how we’re going to handle the roster. We’ve started some preliminary discussions with some guys and we’ll continue to work through that. I don’t really have any updates on where we’re at, and I think you guys know me well enough that I don’t really talk about contracts and stuff like that publicly.”
But when asked specifically about Henry, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,540 yards last season, Robinson sounded optimistic about getting a deal done to keep him.
“Derrick had a great year for us. He led the league in rushing. He built off the second half of the 2018 season he had. He cares about his teammates. He works hard He’s great in the community, and we’re going to work through that one and do everything we can to and try to keep him,” Robinson said.
Vrabel also had high praise for Henry, when asked about the Pro Bowl running back.
“He was physical, he was durable. He takes great care of himself. He was able to give us that spark that we needed that we felt like was gonna help to not only get to the playoffs, but to be successful in the playoffs,” Vrabel said.
The message was not nearly as clear when the subject of quarterback Ryan Tannehill was brought up. Tannehill replaced a struggling Marcus Mariota after six games last year and led the Titans to an AFC Championship Game appearance on the strength of a career year that included averaging 9.6 yard per pass attempt and a 70 percent completion rate.
“We’ll see how it goes. He’s under contract here for the next few weeks, and he did a great job for us. We’ll start those talks, and see kind of where those go, just like all the other players,” Robinson said.
The question was rephrased about Tannehill later in the interview and Robinson again was cautious.
“We’ll see how that goes. His contract is up. We’ll have those contract negotiations with a lot of players and I want to try to keep as many of those guys on the team as possible. But the 2020 Titans they’re going to look different than the 2019 Titans. That’s the way it is,” Robinson said. “The 2019 Titans looked different than the 2018 Titans. There’s rookies that come in. There’s trades that happen, there’s free agency, there’s waiver claims, and we told our team that. They understand that. They’re professional.”
Vrabel when asked about Tannehill remarked, “Ryan did a lot of great things for us. He came in in a tough situation and led our football team. And all those players that have expiring contracts, it’s Jon’s job and my job to put our football team together, and we continue to have those conversations.”
Vrabel went on to say that Tannehill and other impending free agents made a solid impression last season and that that counts for something.
“You want to have players that you know and are comfortable with. That’s a huge point in forming a team every year,” Vrabel said. “It’s what you know, players you’ve worked with, players you’ve coached and you’ve seen them respond. That’s always something you try to do first is the players you’ve worked with and you have on your team currently that you’d like to try to get back.”
Robinson said both sides have to want to get a contract extension done in order for it to happen.
“It takes two sides to tango, and we’ll have contract discussions with a lot of our players with a lot of agents and try to do what’s best for the team at the end of the day,” Robinson said.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the rumors that the Titans are a potential destination for future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady, if he breaks up with the New England Patriots.
“Players that are under contract that are not on our team, I can’t comment on those guys. We’re just working through the process with those guys, and whenever that time opens up that we can negotiate with other players, regardless of what position they are, whenever that window opens up, we’ll attack that just like 31 other teams attack it,” Robinson said.
Vrabel, who is a close friend of Brady’s, was also asked about the 42-year-old quarterback.
“When you look at players that are still under contract, it’s important for us to evaluate each and every position. But there is a time frame to have this conversation,” Vrabel said.