INDIANAPOLIS _ Jack Conklin is just 24 years old, was a first-round pick in 2016 and was named an All-Pro his rookie season.
But thanks to injuries, that seems like a long time ago, as the Tennessee Titans now try to decide whether or not to pick up the right tackle’s fifth-year option. The Titans have until May 2 to do so, meaning they will have already gone through free agency and the draft before having to decide whether or not to keep Conklin under contract for an extra year or allow him to walk into free agency after the upcoming season.
“No, we’re still working through all that right now. That’s not due until May. I don’t even have the official number yet. There’s a lot of things that factor into that, the final cap number and all that,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said when asked about Conklin at the NFL Combine on Wednesday. “We’re working through all of that. I don’t think we’re going to make any decision here at the end of February.”
The fact that Robinson was hesitant to say that Conklin’s option would be picked up shows how complicated the situation is. The past two years, the Titans have not hesitated to pick up fifth-year options on left tackle Taylor Lewan and quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Conklin was regarded as a cornerstone player after being named All-Pro in his rookie year. He was solid again in 2017 but suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the Titans’ AFC Divisional Playoff loss at New England.
The former Michigan State star worked throughout the off-season to get back. He returned to the Titans lineup in Week 4 after being out for all of the team’s off-season program, training camp and preseason.
But the comeback from the injury, plus a change in the Titans blocking scheme, seemed to plague Conklin and prevented him from playing at his previous level.
Conklin then re-injured his left knee in a Week 14 win over Jacksonville, and was shelved for the season after that injury.
There has been some talk and speculation that Conklin might be moved inside to guard to free up Dennis Kelly to become a full-time starter at right tackle.
Robinson said he still considers both players as tackles, but also added that the Titans will make every effort to play the best combination of five offensive linemen on the roster on game days.
“I think that Dennis and Jack are primarily offensive tackles. But at the end of the day, we want to try to get the best give guys out there that help create lanes for the running backs and try to protect the quarterbacks, so they can deliver the ball,” Robinson said. “Whatever combination that is, I would say it would be tackle to what flexibility they have. Versatility and flexibility, I’ve talked about that several times, it’s extremely important really for everybody in the organization.”