Titans make big investment in protecting Marcus Mariota

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans made left tackle Taylor Lewan the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history on Friday.

Taylor Lewan is now set for life. The Pro Bowl left tackle signed a five-year, $80 million deal with $50 million guaranteed on Friday morning, locking in his future with the Tennessee Titans. Lewan, 27, is a former first-round pick who has been charged with protecting another, more high-profile first-round pick in Marcus Mariota. Both should be smiling today.

Lewan broke the bank, and Mariota in theory should stay decidedly unbroken. Between Lewan and his counterpart Jack Conklin on the right side, Tennessee has a top-end pairing on the edges, something especially important with a division that includes J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell.

While the contract is steep, the message is simple. The Titans aren’t going to win without dominating up front, something they did for years as the Houston Oilers with Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews — two Hall of Famers — paving the way. Unlike the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots, the Titans don’t have a quarterback who can win regardless. He needs help and structure, something a quality line provides.

After reaching the AFC Divisionals a year ago, Tennessee fired its head coach and replaced him with Mike Vrabel, a defensive mind with a no-nonsense approach. Perhaps as importantly, general manager Jon Robinson brought Matt LaFleur over to run the offense, coming in from the Los Angeles Rams.

The idea is that the offense has room to grow with Mariota at the controls, something that was stagnated with Mike Mularkey wearing the headset. This year, the unit should be more multiple and unpredictable, but that all falls flat if Mariota is on his back.

Some will say that Lewan is a very good player, but not a great one. He’s never been named a First or Second-Team All-Pro, although he’s twice been invited to the Pro Bowl. There’s credence in that, but there’s also credence to this: Lewan is the best left tackle in the AFC, and that’s without debate. Smart teams lock up players who dominate, especially at prime positions.

Friday was a great day for Lewan and his family. It was also a damn god day for Mariota and the Titans.

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