The Tennessee Titans opted to play it safe at safety.
Rather than commit to a complete overhaul of the back of the defense, the team announced Monday that it had placed the franchise tag on Michael Griffin, which effectively guaranteed the veteran safety would be with the team at least through the 2012 season.
Griffin was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. With Monday’s move, the Titans got the right to match any free agent offer he got or they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation. Monday was the final day teams could use the designation.
The team indicated it planned to pursue a long-term contract with Griffin, a first-round pick in 2007 and a two-time Pro Bowler.
“They’re going to make decisions based on what’s best for the team, whether it’s me here or me not here,” Griffin told The City Paper following last season. “… You don’t want to change, and you don’t want to move and go through the whole process of transitioning to another team.”
With the franchise tag applied to Griffin, safeties Chris Hope, Jordan Babineaux and Anthony Smith all are eligible for free agency next week, although multiple reports have indicated that Tennessee intends to re-sign Babineaux as soon as NFL rules allow.
Griffin has led or tied for the team lead in interceptions in three of the last four seasons, including 2011 when he had two. His career-high was seven in 2008, when he tied for second in the league and earned his first Pro Bowl invitation.
He has not missed a game in five NFL seasons and has started in 73 out of his 80 appearances. His 17 career interceptions ran 17th on the franchise’s all-time list.
The last safety to start more than five consecutive seasons for the Titans was Blaine Bishop, who was the strong safety from 1994 through 2000.