Will the Titans Regret Letting a Key Part of Their Playoff Run Walk Away?

The Tennessee Titans were the Cinderella team last season after their surprising postseason success against the Patriots and red-hot Baltimore Ravens. With such a run, the team had to open its pocketbooks to keep Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry in order to build off of the success.

With those two signed, however, the team had to let some players go, including offensive tackle Jack Conklin. However, his departure could hurt the team as much as the others helped it.

The Titans’ 2019-20 season

The Titans’ success this past season surprised everyone from the get-go. After a decisive win over the Cleveland Browns to open the year, Tennessee lost four out of the next five games. Tannehill became the starting quarterback for Week 7 and kept the role for the rest of the season. With Tannehill leading the offense, things began looking up for the Titans’ squad. 

Despite the 1-4 start, the QB led the team to a winning record by Week 12. While the Titans lost two big games late in the season to the Saints and Texans, they snuck into the playoffs was a 9-7 record. Tannehill was not considered a star quarterback. Losses and mediocre seasons riddled his time with Miami, his fault or not. Suddenly, now, he looks home in Tennessee.

Derrick Henry rushed for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year. This two-headed monster made the Titans tough for opposing defenses to handle. While 9-7 is not spectacular, getting there after a 1-4 start shows the team was better than its record.

The Titans’ playoff run made this clear, as they beat not one, but two league darlings. Hidden behind all this success, however, was Conklin.

Who is offensive tackle Jack Conklin?

Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Jack Conklin before the AFC Championship game in 2020
Former Titans offensive tackle Jack Conklin | Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Selected from Michigan State with the eighth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Conklin immediately helped the Titans offense. At 6-feet-6 and 308 pounds, he was built to withstand any defense, earning All-Pro honors as a rookie. 

In the three years since then, Conklin silently proved to be among the best offensive linemen in the NFL. His size and presence make him nearly impossible to get through. And how he protects his teammates is part of what made the Titans’ offense special once Tannehill, Henry, and the rest of the team found their groove. 

Needing to cut money, however, the Titans handed Conklin his walking papers.

Conklin’s new home in Cleveland

Conklin’s bank account won’t struggle at his new home. According to USA Today, he signed a $42 million contract — $30 million of it fully guaranteed — with the Browns. The team is still waiting to see whether Baker Mayfield can meet the hype. They can use all of the line protection they can get, and Conklin fits the bill. 

Football is a business. Sometimes teams have to let people go to keep their favorites. This was the case for Conklin. By losing his presence, the Titans risk opening up Tannehill and the rest of the team for punishment from the defense. Conklin will not be an easy player to replace, and none of the other linemen on the team have his skill. 

The Titans’ season isn’t dead on arrival. But with a massive contract heading Tannehill’s way and Henry trying to play for his new deal as a franchise-tagged player, they will have to do so knowing they lost a massive insurance policy.