- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Titans were not super high on Michael Griffin after he finished his fifth season.
They put the franchise tag on him because it wasn’t too expensive, because they lacked alternatives, because they weren’t sure they could count on him for the long term.
I know they were disappointed that his play didn’t maintain its early level or improve.
I’ve been critical of Griffin, who agreed to a five-year extension with the team Tuesday. He’s a good player when things are going great around him. When they aren’t, he tends to play worse. And that’s not a quality I want in a first-round pick or from a guy who gets a long term-contract.
That said, he’s done the most he could since the season ended -- accepting the franchise tag without complaint or threat, showing up for offseason conditioning, OTAs and, this week, minicamp. He’s at least trying to lead, and the team’s clearly seen positive change and increased professionalism and accountability.
"If things aren’t good around you, it’s difficult for a safety to play well for any team,” general manager Ruston Webster said. "He is a talented player with a lot of traits to play the position that others in the NFL don’t have. If he can just relax and play, we’re really working hard to make the team better around him."
We’ll need to see the money on the deal to get a sure sense of just what sort of deal this is.
Here are four other factors I suspect were at least partly in play here:
Endorsements: New secondary coaches Brett Maxie and Steve Brown must like him. The team wouldn’t make a long-term commitment like this without an endorsement from the position coach involved. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is a former defensive back with great insight into the position.
The market: Safety seems increasingly thin around the league. It’s not a position where you can find a veteran replacement or a draft pick who can step right in very easily. Griffin, even with a résumé with some holes, would have drawn attention if they hadn’t franchised him and would have again if he played under the tag this year and came free in 2013.
Price: This isn’t Eric Weddle money. It’s $15 million guaranteed on a five-year, $35 million deal. The cap hit for this season is down from the franchise number of $6.2 million.
Role: The Titans feel like they have the personnel to give guys the sort of limited roles that suit them. Griffin is a far better ball-hawking centerfielder than he is an all-around guy. You want an all-around guy at that rate, but he’ll play his best if and when they can allow him to play the ball. And they think that will be often.