By Tim Graham
I'm still trying to figure out how an organization can avoid 13 straight postseasons and declare for the past few years that it's building through the draft yet not be able to retain a homegrown talent such as Andy Levitre.
That puzzlement was at the forefront of my brain once again while reading comments from Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman, about Levitre.
The Titans signed Levitre, the Bills' left guard and 2009 second-round draft pick, as a free agent last week. His deal is for six years and worth as much as $46.8 million.
"We want to be a physical football team again," Munchak told reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "We want those types of guys that are tough mentally and physically."
Seven-time Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson retired, and the Titans had injury problems along the O-line. Levitre never has missed a game in his four NFL seasons.
Munchak said he and Titans O-line coach Bruce Matthews, another Hall of Famer, quickly identified Levitre as their solution.
"For what we were looking for, [Levitre] was the guy that fit all the things we just talked about," Munchak said.
Munchak compared Levitre's blocking style to a pair of interior linemen with 13 Pro Bowls between them, Mark Stepnoski and Kevin Mawae.
"I like the way he finishes," Munchak said. "With linemen and really in general, it's hard to find guys that play the whole play, that won't stand around, that's always by the pile, that's always looking for the last push. So that kind of stood out. That's how he plays the game.
"I thought he does a great job with his leverage. He's not a 320-pound guard. He's a 300-pound guard. He's more an athletic guard that gets really good hand placement. ... He has that ability with his hands to win that battle. That's why he wins most of his battles, no matter who he’s playing against. You can teach that, but it's hard to be that good at it."
Munchak had his eye on him since Levitre came out of Oregon State and vividly recalled breaking down game film and interviewing him before the draft.
What stood out was how Levitre handled defensive linemen much larger than him and routinely moved the pile, particularly in the run game, and could stay with linebackers.
"That kind of stood out week after week," Munchak said. "Consistency is the No. 1 word in the NFL to me. If you watch a player from week to week, do you see that? We saw that in him.
"It became an easy decision for us. This is the one guy we felt, rather than try to draft them all, that we needed to try to get on the roster. Our goal from the beginning was a guy like him."
tagged2013 free agency | Andy Levitre