Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak said quarterback Jake Locker’s starting spot is safe even after Monday’s signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
However, Tennessee’s top playmaker may be receiving fewer touches in 2013 because of another free-agent addition.
Munchak said Tuesday that he envisions ex-New York Jets running back Shonn Greene having a sizeable role in the team’s offense as an accompaniment to starter Chris Johnson.
“I know as a (former) line coach myself that we haven’t had a guy like that in a while,” Munchak said of Greene at the NFL owners meeting. “He reminds me of the Eddie George days — a guy that can fall forward, a guy that’s physical, a guy that can understand his role.
“We’re not going to have him as a short-yardage back, a goal-line back and four-minute back and that’s all he does. We feel he can play all three downs. He may get a series where he gets going and we’re taking over the line of scrimmage and you want that runner in there and we leave him in there.”
Johnson, 27, is coming off a 1,243 rushing campaign. Johnson has gained at least 1,000 yards in all five of his NFL seasons, including a 2,006-yard effort in 2009.
During that season, the huskier LenDale White served as Johnson’s backup. Munchak wanted the same type of big-bodied backup in 2013 after Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper failed to fill the role the past two years.
Greene, 27, signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Titans last week after playing the past four seasons for the New York Jets. Greene gained 1,000-plus rushing yards each of the past two seasons as a Jets starter.
“He gives us a lot more options,” Munchak said. “We haven’t stayed healthy in that (backup) spot the past two years so we’ve been very nervous. Luckily, C.J. has been very durable and hasn’t missed a game since he’s been in the league. We knew our luck was kind of running out on that idea so we had better get someone in.
“We feel that, especially with a young quarterback, we have to start moving the chains better and getting time of possession better. It’s hard to do when you just have a speed back. We thought the complement would be a huge plus for us.”
The Titans needed a new backup for Locker after releasing Matt Hasselbeck on Monday following failed negotiations to restructure his contract. Tennessee quickly struck a two-year deal with Fitzpatrick, who was cut by Buffalo earlier this month after starting the past 3½ seasons.
“I think (Fitzpatrick) understands his role,” Muchak said. “It’s Jake’s team. It’s Jake’s time. Jake’s going to be our guy. We made that decision last year after training camp.
“Ryan has been in this situation before … He’s going to compete with (Locker) and I think he’ll help him a lot throughout the week. It will be another great mentor for him. And we feel he can win if he has to play. That’s how we felt with Matt Hasselbeck also.”
Locker, 24, is entering a pivotal third season in his NFL career. After serving as Hasselbeck’s backup as a rookie, Locker went 4-7 as a starter last season. He missed five games because of a shoulder injury suffered in Week Four against Houston and played hurt for the rest of the year as the Titans finished 6-10.
“This offseason, it’s nice that Jake will be going into camp knowing that he’s our quarterback,” said Munchak, who staged a competition for the starting spot between Locker and Hasselbeck in the 2012 preseason. “He’s got to stay healthy. We know that. That was probably the biggest problem last year. It’s hard to judge him because he didn’t play as much and he played injured.
“Unfortunately, when you have a quarterback who runs around a little bit they get hurt. There’s a chance that second quarterback is going to play a lot. We feel we had that situation with Matt and now with Ryan we have the same thing.”
More of Alex Marvez’s interview with Mike Munchak can be hard between 8 to 11 p.m. ET Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio