The Tennessee Titans have noticed the influx of talent from the NFC into the AFC. After posting the conference's best record to earn the No. 1 seed last season with a string of six straight winning seasons, they like what they have.
The Titans started their offseason program Monday, and All-Pro safety Kevin Byard said adding talent to win championships is more prevalent in basketball.
“In football, you can't really buy championships like that,” Byard said. “You have to have the foundation first. Then you bring pieces into that foundation. And then that's when you talk about winning championships. So we have the foundation.”
The Titans tried to add pieces themselves last year. The biggest move was a trade for seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones, and that didn't work out with the Titans releasing Jones in March. That's why they traded for receiver Robert Woods last month, trying to find someone to pair with A.J. Brown.
Center Ben Jones, who signed his own extension to stick with the Titans in March, said he thinks Tennessee did a good job of adding talent too. He says the Titans are building something special over the past four seasons with AP NFL Coach of the Year Mike Vrabel.
“We don’t need just one year to go and get talent,” Jones said. “It’s a process you have to trust the guys who they put in the room. You’re here for a reason. ... You just don’t need one player to win a championship. It takes a team to win a championship.”
Tennessee also signed two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper after he was released by Cleveland. Hooper has been busy learning his way around the Titans' headquarters, which has gone through a major expansion and renovation over the past two years. He's also using Google maps to find his way around Nashville.
One thing he's noticed quickly is how close-knit the Titans are.
“That's not something that shows up on the stat sheet, but that’s something that really matters in a team environment, in team settings,” Hooper said.
The Titans return 10 of 11 starters on defense with cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins, released in March to create salary cap space, the only starter not returning. Shane Bowen is going into his third straight season with the defense and second with the title of defensive coordinator.
Vrabel missed the start of the offseason program, but the Titans were expecting a team meeting Tuesday.
Among those not attending the start of the voluntary program were quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has not talked to reporters since the 19-16 divisional loss to Cincinnati in January, and Brown looking for a new contract going into the fourth and final year of his rookie deal.
General manager Jon Robinson has made clear that keeping Brown is a priority for the Titans, but the franchise has only about $2 million in salary cap space until getting credit for releasing Jones on June 1.
“These things they all work themselves out, and obviously if you're talking about A.J., A.J. is one of the best receivers in the league and obviously Vrabel and Jon, they've talked about him being here,” Byard said. “So I have no concerns about A.J.”
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