Titans look for immediate returns from free agents
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The revolving door that has been the Tennessee Titans this off-season just keeps on spinning.
It has collected and either secured or sent packing everybody from team president Mike Reinfeldt to a bevy of coaches to unusual aggressiveness in free agency, either by signing new players or letting their own that turned free agents go. Thus, the results of a 6-10 season in head coach Mike Munchak’s second season that didn’t sit well with Houston-based team owner Bud Adams, whose less than subtle approach about wanting success soon hasn’t fallen on deaf ears down the line.
The comings and goings continued this week when the Titans couldn’t reach a contract restructuring with veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was released with a year remaining on his original three-year deal worth $20 million that was to pay $5.5 million this year with a salary cap hit of $7.5 million.
Seems the Titans already had their eyes set on a younger quarterback as backup to starter Jake Locker, who enters his third season with the jury still out on his long-term viability. Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback, who at age 30 is seven years younger than Hasselbeck and seemingly with more tread on the tires.
The Titans signed Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal worth $6.5 million. He is an eight-year veteran who spent the past four seasons, three as the starter, at Buffalo, where he had a 20-33 record as a starter. Last season, he passed for 3,400 yards with 24 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
“Initially when Matt came to Tennessee, he was going to be the starter and things have changed,” Webster told Pro Football Talk. “We tried to work something out with Matt and weren’t able to do that. It was kind of a mutual (decision) between both of us and we let him go. I’ve known Matt a long time. I was in Seattle with Matt, and I’m fairly close to him. We just felt like it was best for both parties.”
With Hasselbeck, the Titans had a backup who could come in and win some games in case of injury, but he would not be even a short-term fix if Locker turns out to not be the guy after all. With Fitzpatrick, he would not only be a sub if Locker get hurts, but also take over the reins beyond this season and be the conduit as the team’s starter until the next franchise quarterback is found, if it’s not Locker.
The signing of Fitzpatrick has yet to become official, pending a physical clearance scheduled this weekend.
“We’re happy to get Ryan Fitzpatrick,” Webster said. “We’ve agreed to terms, but it won’t be official until we get the physical on him. He’ll do a great job in that role as a backup to Jake Locker.”
Also coming through the Titans’ door today after signing a one-year deal is former Baltimore Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard, who also has had stints with the Kansas City Chiefs (2006-08) and Houston Texans (2009-10). He has 85 starts in 105 career games, including the Super Bowl win by the Ravens. Despite missing the last three regular-season games, he still led Baltimore last season with 98 tackles.
“Pollard is a big, physical, experienced safety,” Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. “He was a key contributor for the Super Bowl winners last year, and his physicality and experience will help us.”
The Titans had previously signed veteran strong safety George Wilson, who spent the past eight seasons, nine as team captain, with the Bills. That veteran coupling of Pollard and Wilson will enhance moving current Titans Michael Griffin back to his natural position of free safety.
“Adding (Pollard) and George Wilson to our safety group gives us options moving forward and greatly improves our depth there,” Webster said.
If that weren’t enough for this week, the Titans also signed interior offensive lineman Rob Turner, who started all 16 games – nine at center, seven at guard — last season for the St. Louis Rams. The four-year veteran has played 57 games for the New York Jets and Rams.
“Turner is a guy who got his first opportunity to start last year and he played well,” Webster said. “He spent time as a starter at both center and guard, so we liked his versatility. He will come here to compete and will either earn a starting role or fill a role as a swing guy for the middle spots.”
Prior to signing Pollard, the Titans had signed eight free agents to a total of $100.5 million. That included signing former Bills guard Andy Levitre, one of the best free agents at the position, to a six-year deal worth $46.8 million.
Also signed via free agency along with Fitzpatrick, Levitre, Wilson ($4 million) and Turner ($1.5 million) to contracts of varying lengths were tight end Delanie Walker (formerly of the 49ers) to $17.5 million, defensive tackle Sammie Hill (Lions) to $11.4 million, running back Shonn Greene (Jets) to $10 million and linebacker Moise Foiku (Colts) to $2.8 million.
The Titans did not re-sign tight end Jared Cook, who got a five-year deal worth $35 million with the Rams; and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, who has yet to sign with another team.
— Veteran receiver Kenny Britt was found not guilty Tuesday of driving under the influence while trying to enter the Fort Campbell Army Base last July. After a five-hour trial on post, federal magistrate Lanny King dismissed the charge after he apparently felt there was not enough evidence to convict Britt.
Britt was arrested on July 20 at approximately 3:30 a.m. after failing a field sobriety test and refusing to take a Breathalyzer test. Britt has been involved with nine incidents that have involved police since being the Titans’ first round draft pick in 2009.
Earlier this year following an incident in New Jersey that involved a stabbing and shooting, Britt was interviewed by police, but has not been implicated in any way. The stabbed person was reportedly a Britt friend.
— For the upcoming draft in late April, the Titans have received compensatory draft picks in the third (97th overall), sixth (202) and seventh (248) rounds. That leaves the Titans with nine overall selections, including the 10th overall pick in the first round. They also have picks in the second (40), third (70 and 97), fourth (107), fifth (142), sixth (202) and seventh (216 and 248) rounds.
— Under NFL formula, teams losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive as many as four compensatory draft picks.