Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson has never been afraid to make tough decisions that ultimately benefit the team, and the early part of this offseason has been no exception.
Last week, Robinson cut ties with four players to clear up cap space for free agency. Aside from RB Dion Lewis, who was all-but-certain to be cut following a very lackluster season, all the players could have been justifiably kept.
Despite that, Robinson decided in favor of having more flexibility when negotiating contracts over the next week. That decision is an example of why Robinson has been so successful in his time as the Titans’ GM.
The biggest name that Robinson elected to part ways with was TE Delanie Walker, a staple of the Titans offense since he joined the organization as a free agent in 2013. Releasing Walker cleared nearly $6.5 million for the Titans.
I will say @delaniewalker82 was one of my favorite #Titans to cover. He was honest, hardworking and a true leader of the organization. Would answer the questions asked and had a fun personality. He took the tight end position to a new level for the Titans. Best of luck #82
— Zach Bingham (@Bada_Bingham) March 13, 2020
Plenty of reasonable arguments, including Walker’s nostalgic value, could have been made in defense of keeping him around. He is one of the Titans’ all-time great players, a leader in the locker room and his lack of production since 2018 is entirely due to injuries.
At the end of the day, though, the Titans keeping Walker would have meant relying on a 36-year-old—an expensive one, at that—to adequately heal from an ankle injury that has nagged for two seasons.
Similar situations were present for the other two big-name players the Titans released last week, K Ryan Succop and OLB Cameron Wake.
Succop was a reliable kicker for the Titans for several seasons before hitting a massive wall in 2019 due to a nagging knee injury. He missed all but one of his six field-goal attempts and was a big part of the Titans’ historically bad kicking game.
Wake had a little bit of juice left in the tank for 2019, his age-37 season, but by the end of the nine games he played in, the juice looked to be gone.
Like with Walker, the Titans could have justifiably held onto the hope of Succop and Wake healing from their respective injuries well into their 30s and turning back the clock for one last magical season.
A decision like that, though, would have been a prime example of putting emotion before logic, and that’s not how Robinson operates.
He has never been afraid to be aggressive when it’s necessary. This is the GM who finished a draft only having made four selections because he traded up three times.
I’ll never forget watching Delanie Walker in this game. Maybe the most dominant performance I’ve ever seen. GB was putting 2-3 guys on him every single play and he was still wide open the entire game. pic.twitter.com/4jmi1mPn7K
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) March 13, 2020
This, for the Titans, is another time where aggressiveness is necessary. The organization has a multitude of players with expiring contracts, many of whom are key contributors that the team will, at least, have to make a legitimate effort to re-sign.
So far, Robinson is making the right moves to give himself a chance to do that.
The Titans would have probably loved to keep Walker, Succop and Wake around for another year if they had an unlimited amount of financial resources to use.
Unfortunately, they don’t.
Cutting ties with those players and Lewis gave the Titans around $18 million of extra cap flexibility. At this point, that is much more valuable to the Titans than nostalgic value.
Cover image: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today