NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans will not exercise the 2015 option for the fifth year of quarterback Jake Locker’s contract, according to reports.
The deadline for NFL teams to pick up fifth-year options for players selected in the 2011 NFL Draft is Saturday. If options are taken on players drafted among the top 10 that year (Locker was drafted No. 8 overall in 2011), they will receive a 2015 salary that is the average of the top-10 salaries from players at their position. That would place Locker’s 2015 salary at $14.6 million, including being fully guaranteed if he’s injured and can’t play. In what is now the final year of his contract, Locker will make $2.019 million in 2014.
Locker and Titans general manager Ruston Webster were unavailable for comment on Thursday.
But the move comes as no surprise, considering Locker has missed 14 of 32 starts the past two seasons because of injuries, including nine last season.
Titans first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt did not address Locker’s contract situation today at the close of a three-day minicamp, but did comment on his progress recovering from foot surgery last November that caused him to miss the last seven games of last season.
"That’s the projection," Whisenhunt said of having Locker at full speed by the team’s first organized team activities session later in the month. "I’m hopeful that when we start OTAs that he’ll be able to practice. That’s the schedule."
Locker participated in individual drills this week, but stepped aside during team drills that were led by backups Charlie Whitehurst and Tyler Wilson.
"This week has been good," Whisenhunt said of working on the field with Locker for the first time, "because we get the chance to really do some football stuff with him, even though it was limited, and then see how he reacts from that."
In spending time this week on the field for the first time with the Titans, Whisenhunt and staff got a better feel for what their team needs are when the NFL Draft starts next Thursday in New York City.
"It gives us more of an idea of an assessment of our team (and) where we are," Whisenhunt said. "You feel better about some positions. You obviously have a little bit more information about others. "As far as your team and where you have your needs going forward, yeah, it helps, sure it does. That’s why you are able to have the minicamp before (the draft)."
But Whisenhunt wouldn’t go as far to say this week’s work with the players will dramatically impact the team’s draft board. During this minicamp, which consisted of three practices and two walkthroughs, the only equipment players could wear were helmets.
"Does that impact your draft board?" Whisenhunt asked. "If it’s a good football player, I don’t think it really matters. It just gives you more information, which helps in setting your board."
Overall, Whisenhunt was pleased with what the team achieved during minicamp this week. â¨
"We had a good three days," he said. "I felt like we got a good base in to work off of. We put a lot in, and we got a chance to look at a lot of different guys."
Second-year wide receiver Justin Hunter, the team’s second-round draft pick last year out of Tennessee, came to minicamp this week having gained 15 pounds from his playing weight at the close of last season. That has been a point of emphasis for the slender, 6-foot-4 Hunter, who is expected to join veterans Nate Washington and Kendall Wright atop the wide receivers rotation this season.
"I’ve actually had time," Hunter said of the offseason conditioning program. "I didn’t go on vacation. I stayed here and just ate a lot and worked out."
After getting off to a slow start last year, Hunter closed strong to finish with 18 catches for 354 yards and four touchdowns. His breakout game came Dec. 8 in a loss at Denver in which Hunter had a career-high 114 receiving yards on four catches, including a 41-yard touchdown reception.
"I feel stronger in my upper body," said Hunter, who noted the added weight has not slowed him any. "I’m not getting pushed around like I was last year. I should be able to fight off guys even more, push them out of the way and get them off of me."
After leading the team last year at 19.7 yards per catch, Hunter is expected to be the deep threat for the team’s new offense. Having gone through a year in the NFL, the Virginia Beach, Va., native said he is more prepared this time around.
"It just feels like I am a little wiser now this year," Hunter said. "Going through it being a rookie, I didn’t know so much. Now, I still have the veterans to fall back on, but I just feel a lot smarter."