Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE – Titans general manager Jon Robinson met with reporters at Saint Thomas Sports after a flurry of activity during the first week of free agency.
He discussed all of the team’s free agents, the QB situation, and more.
Here’s a look …
Humphries a “Tough Guy”
The Titans signed former Buccaneers receiver Adam Humphries.
In 2018, the 25-year-old Humphries had a career high in receptions (76), receiving yards (816) and receiving touchdowns (five). The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder became Tampa Bay’s top slot receiver while catching 219 passes for 2,329 yards and nine touchdowns over the last four seasons.
Robinson had familiarity with Humphries, having worked for the Buccaneers when Humphries earned a job in Tampa Bay during a tryout at rookie minicamp in 2015.
“He and I have a history together down in Tampa,” Robinson said of Humphries. “I’ll give a shout-out to Byron Kiefer down in Tampa. He was the scout that kind of brought him up in the tryout process, and Hump came in and won a job on the team, on the 90-man roster, and he was a tough guy to cover in training camp. He ended up not quite making it and was on the practice squad and kept working and working and working and working and I’ve always had an affinity for him.
“I liked his style in Tampa there. He did a really good job on the catch and run plays, he was good in the screen game, has punt return value, and was a good blocker. He wasn’t afraid to throw his hat in there on a linebacker to try a spring a run.”
Robinson said Humphries has made a name for himself inside at the slot position, but said he could also play outside at receiver. Robinson called the slot position “an important position” and said Humphries is a tough guy who is willing to do the dirty work in addition to making catches.
“I’m really proud of him,” Robinson said of Humphries. “I remember when I called him in and told him he’d made the team in Tampa after trying out. He was obviously stoked. He was a guy that stayed after practice in Tampa and caught extra footballs and ran extra routes. He was always looking to do more to try and perfect his craft as a player. He’s a really hard worker and we’re proud to have him on our team now.
“And I know he is going to bring that same attitude and work ethic to our football team.”
The Offensive Line
The Titans added one guard and subtracted another in Week One of free agency.
The team signed Rodger Saffold, a 6-foot-5, 323-pound offensive lineman who spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Rams.
The 30-year-old Saffold, a second-round pick by the Rams in 2010, was second-team All-Pro in 2017. He has started 46 of 48 games since the 2016 season.
“Really good size,” Robinson said. “Still a good mover. He gets on guys and can create run lanes. He’s sturdy in pass protection, is a really good technician. He is good with his hands. So we’re excited to add him.”
Meanwhile, guard Josh Kline was released. Robinson said the team tried to work something out with Kline and his contract, “but we couldn’t resolve it.”
“I have a ton of respect for Josh,” Robinson said. “He’s played a lot of good football here. But at the end of the day felt like we needed to kind of turn the page on that one.”
Robinson mentioned Kevin Pamphile, Corey Levin and Aaron Stinnie as candidates at the other guard spot, opposite Saffold, although free agency and the NFL Draft could also provide more options.
“At the end of the day we’ll try and put the best guy in there to line up and help us win football games,” Robinson said.
Cameron Wake Addition
Former Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake should add a boost to the Titans on defensive after being signed by the team.
“I think his history kind of speaks for itself,” Robinson said. “We feel like there is certainly tread on the tire at 37 years old as a pass rusher for us.”
Wake has posted double-digit sack totals in five of his 10 NFL seasons, including a 10.5-sack season in 2017. Wake recorded six sacks in 2018 while playing limited snaps. He recorded 360 total tackles, one interception, and 22 forced fumbles in addition to his 98 sacks during his time with the Dolphins. Wake’s 98 sacks are the second-most ever by a player in a Dolphins uniform, behind only Jason Taylor.
Titans defensive line coach Terrell Williams coached Wake in Miami.
“His history with Cam certainly played into us going after him,” Robinson said of Williams. “His production on the field speaks for itself, but having that veteran presence in the locker room with (Harold) Landry, with (Sharif) Finch, even Rashaan (Evans) and Jayon (Brown), some of our younger players, that veteran presence can help show them and teach them what has gotten him this far at this point in his career will our football team.”
Robinson called Kenny Vaccaro a “primary target” before the start of free agency, and he delivered by reaching a deal with the veteran safety.
Also last week, the team released veteran Johnathan Cyprien.
Signed prior to the start of the 2018 season, Vaccaro played in 13 games for the Titans last year. He recorded 70 tackles, with two sacks and an interception. He proved to be a tone-setter, and a reliable pro while playing alongside safety Kevin Byard.
“I saw the clip where he kind of got choked up (talking about Cyprien),” Robinson said. “I thought that was really cool, and it kind of speaks to his passion about football, and the camaraderie in that room.
“Kenny is a real passionate football player, and we were fortunate that he was available last August when Cyp went down, and he did a great job coming in and acclimating himself to our football program, and he earned it.”
The Titans traded for former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, a first-round pick (eight overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft who has played in 88 career games in seven seasons in Miami. Tannehill has completed 1,829-of-2,911 passes for 20,434 yards, with 123 touchdowns and 75 interceptions.
So, how does Tannehill’s signing impact quarterback Marcus Mariota?
“I talked to Ryan when we kind of started the process, and he understands that he is coming in as the back-up quarterback,” Robinson said. “I’ve talked to Marcus and told Marcus he is our starting quarterback. Ryan is here to help Marcus, to push Marcus, to compete with Marcus.
“And the one thing, after talking with Marcus, he said: ‘One thing Jon that I believe with all my heart is that you try and do what’s best for the team and you try and put us in the best position to win football games.’ And that made me feel pretty good.”
Tannehill, 30, started 11 games for the Dolphins in 2018, and he completed 176-of-274 passes for 1,979 yards and 17 touchdowns, with nine interceptions. He missed the 2017 season with a knee injury.
“He has certainly played a lot of football in this league, and he is a tough guy, and he’s a smart guy,” Robinson said of Tannehill. “He is a pretty accurate passer. Like all quarterbacks you have some ups and downs, but I thought he tried to do his best to put the team in position in Miami to win.
“I think his skill-set, and Marcus’ skill-set, are similar.”
Mariota Health Update
Mariota started 13 of the team’s 16 games in 2018, and played in 14 of 16. He finished the year with 2,528 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He set the franchise record with a completion percentage of 68.9 %.
Robinson said Mariota is healing up from his injuries from 2018.
“He said he’s feeling good. He’s working out, moving around, throwing,” Robinson said of Mariota. “So I think he is going to come back here a little bit before the appointed time (for the offseason program) and get some work in. … We are excited to have him back on our football team and looking forward to it.”
Robinson discussed the different phases in free agency, which officially started last Wednesday.
He reminded there’s still lots of time before the team even begins it’s offseason program on April 15.
“I’m still getting text messages from agents who have players that aren’t signed,” Robinson said. “We’re monitoring all of that. I don’t know that we have anything in the cooker, for lack of a better term, right now. But as things come up, if we somebody we think can help out football team, and it is reasonable, we are going to look at it.”
Robinson was asked about the team’s salary cap situation.
“I haven’t gotten the update from Vin yet,” said Robinson, referring to Titans VP of Football Administration Vin Marino, who handles the contracts. “But he hasn’t told me to put the phone down or to stop fielding calls yet. Until he says stop, I’m going to keep going.”