NASHVILLE – After a busy week in free agency, Titans General Manager Jon Robinson caught his breath over the weekend.
So far, the Titans have officially added five new players – edge rusher Bud Dupree, defensive lineman Denico Autry, cornerback Janoris "Jackrabbit" Jenkins, tackle Kendall Lamm, and long snapper Morgan Cox.
"I think the guys that we've added to the football team were guys that we targeted, guys that we were excited to try to go after and get," Robinson said in an interview with Mike Keith, Vice President of Broadcasting with the Titans, for TennesseeTitans.com. "There were some other guys that we had some talks with that we just couldn't get to where they were financially with other teams. But I am excited. I am excited about these guys.
"What we have going here, the locker room, the group of guys we have here, the style of football we want to play, players talk about it. And it was cool to hear these new additions come in and visit with them and talk to them about what other teams, what other players across the league, think about our program. They were excited to join us."
In addition to adding newcomers, the Titans have also re-signed some of their own, from linebacker Jayon Brown to fullback Khari Blasingame to tight ends Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim.
There have also been some departures during the early stages of free agency, which Robinson called the "Wild, Wild West."
Tight end Jonnu Smith joined the Patriots, and receiver Corey Davis signed with the Jets.
The Titans released defensive backs Malcolm Butler, Adoree' Jackson, and Kenny Vaccaro, along with tackle Dennis Kelly and receiver Adam Humphries.
So, what's next?
"I think the dust is starting to settle a little bit," Robinson said. "You are starting to see some of the numbers come down on some players. We've got some lines in the water on a couple of guys. I don't know how active we'll continue to be. We're just going to kind of monitor the situation and see if it's the right fit for some guys, if they are still available to come on the team and continue to focus preparing on the draft."
Robinson was happy the team was able to land Dupree, who recorded eight sacks in 11 games with the Steelers in 2020 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Dupree posted a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019 with 17 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss.
Dupree's 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons rank eighth and his six strip sacks rank fourth in the NFL since 2019.
"I remember scouting Bud when he came out of Kentucky, and was a first-round pick," Robinson said. "He had an outstanding career in Pittsburgh. He is big, he is long, he is fast, and he is disruptive off the edge. He's a high-motor player that works to get to the ball whether it is run or pass, he affects the pass rusher, he affects the set of the tackle. There's just a lot of factors that we think will fit well in here with our defense."
The expectation is Dupree will wreak havoc with Autry, a 6-5, 285-pounder who was a force all over the defensive line for the Colts, where he's registered 20 sacks in 40 games over the past three seasons. Autry posted nine sacks in 2018, 3.5 sacks in 2019 and 7.5 sacks in 2020.
"He is a really versatile player, he can rush from the 5-technique, he can play down on the guard as a 3-technique," Robinson said of Autry. "Indy even played him some on the nose tackle. He can stand up, he can drop into coverage a little bit. He's just a really unique chess piece to move around on the front to try and get us an advantage."
On the back end, Jenkins should be a nice addition.
Among NFL players since 2012, Jenkins ranks first in passes defensed (119), first in defensive touchdowns scored (9) and fourth in interceptions (26). Jenkins has registered two or more interceptions in eight of his nine NFL seasons.
"He covers his guy," Robinson said of Jenkins, who played last season with the Saints. "Jackrabbit gets on his guy, and he covers them up, he is feisty, he is aggressive. We talked about not letting his guy catch the ball, and it is something we believe in and it's something he believes in, and we are excited to add him as well."
Those new additions will join Brown on a new-look defense.
"Jayon has played a lot of good football for us," Robinson said. "He's a productive player for us, good communicator at the linebacker position, making sure the coverage and the front matched up. Certainly, when he went out last season, we had some guys step up. But he's made a lot of plays and we missed him. To get him back, and his young, veteran presence, if you will, in the front seven was key for us."
Robinson admitted it was tough to say goodbye to some of the team's own.
"We lost some guys, and you hate to lose those guys, but that's the way the NFL goes," he said. "You've got to be prepared for that, and you have to make some decisions on how you're going to allocate your resources, how you are going to construct your team. I am excited about the guys that we have back, and I wish those guys that have moved on to other teams nothing but the best, except for when they play us."
In recent weeks, Robinson has been busy juggling both the draft and free agency.
This week, he'll continue to do both.
Robinson plans to attend some Pro Days this week, and he'll continue to do zoom calls with prospects.
The NFL Draft is edging closer, and the Titans look different now than they did a week ago.
"The goal is to try and improve the football team, at least in this portion, at the start of the roster building process," Robinson said. "We have the draft coming up in a little more than a month. We had to make some tough decisions on some players that have been here over the last couple of years, added some new pieces and we continue to look and see what is left out there in the free agent world, and who might fit our football team."