The Tennessee Titans are in the process of trying to get return man Chris Carr to ... return.
As in return to the team potentially before he hits unrestricted free agency along with 13 other teammates on Feb. 27.
The Titans are actively in discussions with a number of their free agents who can hit the open market in two weeks, according to general manager Mike Reinfeldt.
Carr came to Tennessee last year as a restricted free agent from the Oakland Raiders, signing a one-year deal with Tennessee worth around $1.8 million. His play in 2008 helped the Titans' kickoff return game ascend to the top of the NFL, something that has made Carr a player on Tennessee’s wish list to retain.
In fact, according to Andrew Baker, Carr’s agent, there is a chance Carr could be one of the players Tennessee strikes a deal with before the free agency period begins Feb. 27.
“It’s definitely a possibility, because we are active in discussions with them,” Baker said. “But free agency is close. It’s about two weeks away and we’ll have to give consideration to all those factors.
“Chris certainly enjoyed his time with the organization and liked his teammates and coaches in Tennessee.”
In addressing the media on Thursday, Reinfeldt said he believed the pace of negotiations would become more brisk between now and the deadline for all the free agents the Titans are considering retaining.
“We have a number of free agents that we would like to retain. We’re in discussions with those gentlemen’s agents,” Reinfeldt said. “You know, we’re in negotiations with a number of them. I think what you’re going to see over the next two weeks, I think you’re going to see things accelerate. The pace picks up.”
Carr averaged 28.1 yards per kickoff return and 10.1 yards per punt return for the Titans and said at season’s end that he would consider taking less money to return to Tennessee, although he prefaced that by saying he would like a bigger role in the defense.
Carr also performed capably filling in at cornerback when injuries cost starter Nick Harper a few games and sidelined Eric King and Reynaldo Hill for the season.
BIG PRIZE UPDATE: Reinfeldt and Coach Jeff Fisher both spoke about the possibilities of re-signing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and quarterback Kerry Collins, the team’s two biggest questions as free agency approach.
As for Haynesworth, who is likely seeking to become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player with a contract somewhere in the range of $35 million guaranteed,
Reinfeldt wouldn’t give away what he had in mind for Haynesworth’s value, but did indicate that he and the Titans have a dollar figure in mind for the negotiations.
“I do think you need to do that with all of your people, kind of figure out what kind of deal makes sense, how far you’re willing to go, what’s the right amount,” Reinfeldt said. “You know, approach it from that standpoint, whether it’s Albert or any of the other 13 players.”
There is the belief that if Haynesworth is not signed by Tennessee before free agency opens that another team will throw enough money to overwhelm him and take him away from the Titans in the free agent bidding. A blog this week in the St. Petersburg Times speculated that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have significant interest in Haynesworth if he makes it to the open market.
“You never know how the free agent market works. Sometimes that can happen and sometimes that’s not the case,” Reinfeldt said. “I think all of our players…what tends to happen in free agency is everyone envisions that it’s going to be the perfect Shangri-La. And that’s not always the case, quite honestly. And I think the important thing is if you stay with those guys, and are determined, then I think you’ve got a chance. [even after the market opens].”
As for Collins, who has said he wants to return as the starter, the Titans are still banking that he will return, though nothing is imminent at the present time.
“We said at the end of the season that we had hope and expectation that we would be able to re-sign Kerry,” Fisher said “I also said that Vince [Young] is eventually going to be our starter. So, we don’t know what the market’s going to be. I believe that Kerry has every intention of coming back. And if he comes back, for all intents and purposes, he’s our starter, and Vince waits. If he doesn’t, then we’ll deal with that, but our interest right now is to try and get Kerry back.”
The Titans are also trying to re-sign Chris Simms, who was their third-string quarterback last year.
WAITING GAME: Titans punter Craig Hentrich is still contemplating whether or not to retire after 15 NFL seasons, and the team is willing to wait on his decision for now.
“I still haven’t decided. I’m just trying to let my body heal up and feel better before I make any decision,” Hentrich said.
Fisher indicated that the Titans hope to have a decision soon on Hentrich’s future, but won’t rush him into deciding. Fisher also indicated that Hentrich, a free agent, would be welcomed back if he decides to play in 2009. Hentrich told The City Paper last month that he had no desire to play elsewhere.
“We’re hoping that we can get things resolved in the near to immediate future,” Fisher said. “It makes sense, it’s common sense if you have a player, a starter that’s pondering retirement, you need a decision as quickly as possible so you can move on. We’re not pressuring Craig, however. We have too much respect for Craig to put pressure on him.”