If you think the Tennessee Titans’ front office had issues to resolve this offseason, the Albert Haynesworth issue might seem small compared to the list of players whose contracts are scheduled to expire after 2009.
This year, the Titans’ main free agent decisions came early in the process as they lost Haynesworth to a $100 million deal to the Washington Redskins, but managed to retain kicker Rob Bironas, quarterback Kerry Collins and nickelback Vincent Fuller with new deals, while franchising tight end Bo Scaife.
They added receiver Nate Washington and defensive tackle Jovan Haye in free agency. And while they are still attempting to re-sign Chris Carr, and perhaps add another veteran receiver, the Titans probably are finished with most of their major free agent decisions.
After the 2009 season, though, the Titans will be faced with plenty of hard choices, as no less than 13 key contributors will be at the end of their current deals.
The defense is where the Titans will have the toughest decisions to make, as those up for free agency include linebackers Keith Bulluck and Stephen Tulloch, defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse and Dave Ball, defensive tackle Tony Brown and cornerback Nick Harper.
On offense, those at the end of their deals include center Kevin Mawae, guard Eugene Amano, tight ends Alge Crumpler, Scaife and second-team running back LenDale White. Long snapper Ken Amato can also be a free agent after ’09.
For those counting, that is six of the current 11 defensive starters, plus one of the top backups in the defensive line rotation. Examining the current makeup of the depth chart and reserves, the Titans are certainly not equipped to handle a mass exodus from a defense that has been one of the league’s best over the past two seasons.
Offensively, of course, it would be 40 percent of the offensive line, though Leroy Harris could be plugged in at one of the spots and is being groomed for just that. But it also includes both their top tight ends, as well as White, who, while not an every down back, was a solid short yardage rusher and decent complement to feature back Chris Johnson.
Certainly, the toughest decisions facing the front office will be determining which of the 30-something veterans to reinvest in and which ones to let walk away.
Those who will be in the 30-plus category by season’s end include such stalwarts as Bulluck, Vanden Bosch, Kearse, Harper, Mawae, Crumpler and Amato.
Certainly, the Titans can’t afford to lose all of them, and probably have already earmarked a few to retain. But finding quality replacements can be tough, meaning the upcoming draft is much more crucial than many might think for a team coming off a 13-3 season that currently might need only a few tweaks and upgrades to maintain its contender status.
Even with the loss of Haynesworth to Washington, the Titans still believe their window of opportunity is very much open. But seeing what is on the horizon after 2009, there are critical decisions to be made that will greatly impact the direction the franchise goes beyond this year.