COMMENTARY: How hard did the Titans work to re-sign Haynesworth?

Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 1:00am

When it comes to free agency, the Tennessee Titans aren’t splashy, but they are consistent. Their philosophy is to establish what they consider to be fair market value on a given player and then not stray too far from that price, no matter what others in the market might do.

The Titans’ theory regarding free agency and how much to pay will certainly be put to the test with the landmark seven-year, $100 million contract Albert Haynesworth got from the Washington Redskins, including $41 million in guarantees.

As it turns out, the Titans drew their line in the proverbial sand, and didn’t deviate from it, which played a large role in Haynesworth signing his record deal with Washington early in free agency. Tennessee’s final offer to Haynesworth, according to a league source, amounted to a four-year package worth $34 million total, with about $20 million in guarantees, The City Paper learned.

Last year, Tennessee employed their value strategy last season to great effect, watching defensive linemen Antwan Odom, Travis LaBoy and Randy Starks all walk away with lucrative contracts elsewhere, but with mixed results on the field.

It can be argued that LaBoy helped Arizona to the Super Bowl, but Odom didn’t live up to the $29 million ($11 guaranteed) he got from Cincinnati, and the Titans never gave a second thought to coming close to Miami’s inflated $21 million ($7 guaranteed) deal for Starks.

The bargain-shopping Titans simply filled in the pieces with draft picks, former backups and bargain free agents and went 13-3 and into the NFL playoffs.

Certainly this off-season, Brandon Jones felt the effects of the Titans’ free agency policy. He was a player they wanted to keep, but let test the market and move on when the San Francisco 49ers offered much more than Tennessee was willing to pay.

But getting back to Haynesworth, few probably fault the Titans for deciding not to pay the kind of money the Redskins did, even to a player of Haynesworth’s abilities. What could determine whether the Titans’ decision to let him go was the right one, may not be how much Haynesworth received from the Redskins, but on the Titans’ decision to not exceed the value they had put on the defensive tackle even as he was about to reach the open market.

According to a league source with knowledge of the situation, the Titans made that offer in late January and never seriously moved far off it, even as the deadline for free agency approached. That package is close to what has been reported as the offer that Haynesworth and the Titans nearly agreed upon before the July 15, 2008 deadline to sign the tender offer or play for the one-year $7.25 million figure.

Yes, there was a face-to-face meeting between Haynesworth’s agent Chad Speck and general manager Mike Reinfeldt, and that meeting produced a bit of progress, as reported in The City Paper. However, according to sources, the Titans were supposedly willing to go up to around $10 million per season, with perhaps up to $28 million guaranteed from that meeting. No formal offer of that amount apparently ever officially materialized, according to a league source.

Even that figure, had it come to fruition, might not have been enough to keep Haynesworth in a Titans uniform. Also, talk of the Redskins’ tampering probably doesn’t matter that much either, because the Titans were all but out of the race by that point with the Haynesworth camp staring free agency in the face.

The Titans had determined what they were willing to do, and they weren’t going to move too far off that figure into a dollar value they were not comfortable with paying — even for a dominant defender like Haynesworth.

So as Haynesworth begins life in Washington, D.C., both he and the Titans surely will be scrutinized to see whether their free agency divorce was the right move or not. In the meantime, the Titans moved on — they used $16 million over four years on Jovan Haye and putting $27 million into receiver Nate Washington and $15 million for quarterback Kerry Collins — retaining and adding pieces to the puzzle they hope close the holes on the roster, not to mention closing the debate on the whole Haynesworth saga.

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