NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Durability has never been an issue with veteran guard Andy Levitre.
In six NFL seasons, Levitre has started all 96 games. He remained in the lineup with the Titans for 32 starts over the previous two seasons despite setbacks with hip and knee injuries, and even an emergency appendectomy prior to the 2014 season.
This after starting 64 straight games with the Bills before landing a blockbuster deal with the Titans in 2013.
Levitre has been a pro's pro along the way. Despite being left out of the starting lineup the last three preseason contests – he didn't play at all on Thursday vs the Vikings – Levitre's coaches and teammates raved about his professionalism. Even when it was clear his days with the Titans were numbered, Levitre didn't let it impact his approach on the field and in the locker room.
The fact of the matter is Levitre just didn't fit the Titans any more, and on Friday the team traded him to the Atlanta Falcons for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a conditional pick in a future year.
When the Titans signed Levitre, he was regarded as the top guard on the market at a time when the team needed help at the position.
He was a good fit under then Titans coach Mike Munchak's regime, where athletic interior linemen with great technique thrive in more of a zone-blocking scheme.
Things have changed since under new coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff, and Levitre became less of a fit in Tennessee, where the Titans have gone toward bigger offensive linemen.
During training camp, the Titans replaced the 6-foot-2, 303-pound Levitre with a 6-foot-5, 340-pounder in Byron Bell at left guard. This offseason the team signed undrafted free agents like Josue Matias (6-5, 309) and Quinton Spain (6-4, 330), and they joined another big man in Will Poehls (6-8, 334).
Big Chance Warmack (6-2, 323) is the starter at right guard.
The thinking is bigger offensive linemen usually create a better pocket in pass protection, and they're able to hold up against mammoth defensive linemen. That's going to be especially important with rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota behind center this fall.
With the Titans, Levitre oftentimes got overpowered.
Levitre should be a much better fit in Atlanta, under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, where undersized offensive linemen can have success with a lot of zone blocking, using quicker players who can get to the second and third level.
Levitre could still have issues in pass protection, but he won't be as exposed in the run game, where he'll be more on edges than face up on defenders. The change of scheme should put Levitre in a better opportunity to be successful.
As for the Titans, parting ways with Levitre ends any questions about the direction the team is moving up-front.
The team hopes bigger ends up being better.