Anthony Firkser was an applied mathematics major at Harvard, yet even he never figured he would have the type of NFL career that he has.
And it is not finished. The Tennessee Titans’ decision to re-sign Firkser to a one-year, $3 million contract for 2021 means that his stay in the league will extend at least into a fifth year.
“Yeah, this wasn’t exactly kind of the future I was looking at from Harvard,” Firkser said recently. “Sometimes I look back and I’m surprised about how I’ve gotten this many opportunities and stuff, but I feel like I’ve done my best to prove myself and show that I can hang with the guys at this level and continue to keep doing whatever I can to add value.”
Three NFL teams have given Anthony Firkser a chance. Only the Titans have given him the opportunity to play.
So far, there is no need for him to find a fourth.
He was scheduled to be a restricted free agent this offseason, and Tennessee could have retained his rights with a qualifying offer for as little as $2.133 million. Instead, the sides negotiated a deal that suggests Firsker will play a more significant role in the passing game following the departure of Jonnu Smith, the Titans’ top tight end for the past two seasons who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the New England Patriots.
“Just hearing from guys around the league and a couple guys, my agent as well, I felt like most likely I would have an opportunity to be back with the Titans,” he said. “After the talks with my agent and negotiations, it definitely felt like the best opportunity for myself and the organization, and I was excited to be back and come back for another year.”
Firkser already had been in training camp with the New York Jets and had spent most of a season on Kansas City’s practice squad when Tennessee offered him the opportunity to take part in its 2018 rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. That led to a contract offer, which he turned into a spot on the 53-man roster at the end of training camp.
In three seasons with the Titans, he has played 43 games and has caught 72 passes for 816 yards and two touchdowns. He has become particularly useful in critical situations as evidenced by the fact that he had 14 third or fourth-down receptions that went for first downs in 2020.
In all, Firkser played just 32 percent of the snaps on offense last season and caught 39 passes (two fewer than Smith) for 387 yards and one touchdown. It does not take a mathematical whiz to figure that his opportunities and his numbers are likely to increase in 2021.
“(Smith) played a very important role in everything we did, run game, pass game,” Firkser said. “It’s going to be difficult to fulfill the jobs he did, but as a tight end room we’re going to embrace everything he did and just keep improving and do the best that we can do in our position, in our roles.
“… I’ve been super grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given by the Titans especially and being able to keep progressing and finding a role and finding value in the organization. It’s been just an amazing opportunity.”