Two years after tearing ACL at Gillette Stadium, Jack Conklin playing well and set for return

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two years ago, on the field at Foxboro in a divisional playoff loss to the Patriots, Jack Conklin tore his ACL and his career began a downward spiral.

Only in the second half of this season has he returned to anything close to the form of his 2016 rookie All-Pro year.ConklinSaints

“I’ve moved past that,” he said. “It’s one of those freak things that happens sometimes, it really has nothing to do with that field. Obviously, I remember, but you’ve just got to let it go. You start thinking about stuff like that, that’s when injuries tend to happen. It feels like it’s been a long time, not two years ago.

“I think, I’ve developed a lot, I think I’ve come a long, long way in pass protection, working with LeCharles Bentley, that’s really helped with my development and it’s making me a better, better player.”

A former NFL offensive linemen who the Titans missed drafting by one pick in 2002, Bentley runs Offensive Line Performance in Chandler, Ariz. Where Conklin spent time before reporting to the Titans for 2019 preparations.TicketsBox

Conklin was the eighth overall pick in 2016 and had a fantastic rookie season. He was not nearly as good in the second year and then tore the ACL. In 2018 he started late as he finished his recovery and then finished the season on IR after nine games.

The Titans then declined in the spring of 2019 to exercise his fifth-year option for 2020. It would have meant a 2020 base salary of $12.866, a $10.249 million raise. I wrote about the sensible rationale at that time.

Has Conklin’s steady improvement this season and his role in a great offensive season put him back in the mix for an extension? The team could now feel like it wants to hold everything together on offense to maximize a window.

But the tackle market will dictate a giant price, and it’s hard to image the Titans being willing/able to dive into that with all the other moving parts they will have to deal with.

Right tackle Ju’Wuan James jumped from Miami to Denver as a free agent in 2019 for a four-year, $51 million deal with $27 million guaranteed at signing.

The top five average salaries for right tackles in 2020 are $18 million for Lane Johnson of the Eagles, $16.5 million for Trent Brown of the Raiders, $12.75 million for James, $10 million for La’el Collins of the Cowboys and $9.5 million for Ricky Wagner.

Former Titans' scout Blake Beddingfield, a contributor at this site, thinks Conklin will fit in between Johnson and Brown.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

Last year’s franchise tag number for offensive linemen was $14.067, which will go up. Taylor Lewan’s salary averages out to $16 million in 2020, and while right tackles have gained value as compared to left tackles, the Titans would be hard-pressed to pay their second tackle comparable money.

Before Conklin starts to consider all that, he hopes to be part of a playoff run. Hopefully, that starts with a full game at Gillette Stadium.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to get up there and play them. Any time you get to play New England you’re excited. You want to make an impact. It’s going to be a fun game to get back up there. Last time I was there I tore my ACL. Now it’s a different year, a different thing and I am feeling good.”

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