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AFC South Q&A: Is Titans' Jon Robinson the best GM in the division?

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  • AFC South Q&A: Is Titans' Jon Robinson the best GM in the division?

    AFC South Q&A: Is Titans' Jon Robinson the best GM in the division?

    ESPN
    The Tennessee Titans made a six-game jump in the win column in 2016, in large part because of the work of first-year general manager Jon Robinson. With some front-office question marks around the AFC South, might Robinson already rank as the best GM of the bunch? How do the division's other GMs stack up? The other three teams' ESPN reporters tell us how they see Robinson fitting in the ranking.

    Michael DiRocco, Jaguars reporter: I really like what Robinson has done in the 18 months since he was hired. From trading for RB DeMarco Murray to drafting Jack Conklin to pulling off the blockbuster trade with the Rams out of the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, it seems like everything Robinson has done has worked. It also seems like Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey are really in sync in how they want to construct the franchise and the style of football they want to play. Robinson certainly tops my list of GMs in the division. It's hard to separate the remaining three GMs. Indy's Chris Ballard has only been on the job since late January, but I did like what he did in free agency and his first draft. Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell has not had much success with his first-round picks (OT Luke Joeckel, QB Blake Bortles, DE Dante Fowler Jr.) but has done well in the middle rounds. He also has had several significant free-agent misses (TE Julius Thomas, DE Jared Odrick, CB Davon House). As for Houston's Rick Smith, I just can't get past the fact that he gave QB Brock Osweiler $37 million guaranteed and then traded him -- as well as two draft picks -- to Cleveland a year later just to get Osweiler's salary off the books. So if I absolutely have to rank them, I'll go Robinson, Caldwell, Smith (again, the Osweiler debacle) and Ballard (not yet enough of a track record).

    Sarah Barshop, Texans reporter: I'd rank the general managers: Smith, Robinson, Caldwell, Ballard. Robinson may overtake Smith soon with the Titans' young roster, but Smith still put together three consecutive 9-7 teams, including back-to-back AFC South titles and an excellent defense. A major stain on his résumé is, of course, the four-year, $72 million contract he gave Osweiler, but he was able to get the Browns to trade for his contract -- although it came with having to get rid of a second-round pick -- and he got his quarterback of the future by trading up to get Deshaun Watson. The Jaguars have made good moves on paper, but it's hard to say Caldwell is doing a great job until they start winning games. Ballard had a good offseason, but it remains to be seen how good the Colts will be in 2017.

    Mike Wells, Colts reporter: Count me in as a believer in Robinson. He quickly realized that the Titans had to make sure to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota and also supply him with a running game to take some of the load off his right arm. The Titans gave up the seventh-fewest sacks (28) in the NFL last season. And they're set at running back with Murray (1,287 yards) and Derrick Henry(490 yards). Robinson, like Ballard, put a premium on improving Tennessee's defense this offseason by acquiring players such as defensive backs Logan Ryan and Johnathan Cyprien. So much is talked about Houston winning the division in each of the past two seasons and the Colts potentially pushing them for the top spot next season, but the Titans should be right in the mix. I can't put Ballard as the second-best GM because nobody knows how his free-agent signings and draft picks will pan out. I'm also not putting Smith second, because for some reason he thought it would be a good idea to give Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016. Osweiler was a disaster and was traded to Cleveland after just one season in Houston. So I guess Caldwell is the second-best general manager in the division by default.
    If you're not following the Astros, you are doing Houston sports wrong.
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