Since mid-November, the great debate in and around Nashville has been, "What will the Titans do next year?"
For those of you who don't know, the Titans are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the NFL salary cap for next year. There were two schools of thought about how the Titans should approach this issue in the off-season. One is you mortgage the future, restructure contracts for now and make one last run for the Super Bowl. The other is that you blow up the team and start over again, rebuilding for success that is not immediate (we're talking three to five years here).
Yesterday, the Titans announced which of these two paths they'd follow. The Titans are clearly building for the future, as they cut six veteran players from the roster
, with as many as five more players expected to follow in the coming weeks. The players cut are: receiver Derrick Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle, defensive lineman Kevin Carter, tackle Fred Miller, kicker Joe Nedney and running back Robert Holcombe.
By making this move, the Titans shave a good chunk of the cap figure this year and could end up as much $7 million under the cap in 2006. And this is just the first of what is expected to be several such moves for the Titans in the weeks and months ahead.
Of course, this cutting of players is bitterly dividing Titans fans--well, at least those that call into the sports talk shows. Discussion of this dominated the airwaves last night and again this morning. A lot of fans question why Steve McNair is still here when Billy Volek did such a good job in relief last year when McNair was forced to shut it down early to get healthy. Pretty much, it's cheaper to keep McNair than cut him and let's face it, MVPs don't grow on trees. I like Volek (heck, he won me a lot of fantasy games down the stretch last year) but I still think McNair can be good if the offensive line stays healthy. Of course, now he's facing a dilemma--by cutting our first, best reciever in Mason, who is he going to throw it to? Tyrone Callico had a potentially great season cut short last year by injury and while I like Drew Bennett, is he ready to be the go-to guy?
While I'm sorry to see these six players go, I also understand that this is the way the NFL works today. The Titans are doing what it takes to get better by getting less expesnive free agents and building from within. Face it, the one good thing that came from the 2004 campaign was that a lot of younger players got some playing time and that can only help down the road. Also, the Titans have shown they know how to take advantage of the draft and build well. Let's hope this streak continues, especially now that we have a high draft pick. Also, last year when we had a large number of veterans out and the young guys playing a lot of time, we were in most of the games. There was no quit in this team, which makes me believe that this team will get better sooner rather than later.
Does that mean that 2005 is going to be a banner year? I'm not holding my breath. But I think the Titans could be that team you don't want to play at any given time. Yes, we have some issues at wide reciever and cornerback now (Peyton Manning and the high powered Indy offense must be delighting in this) but I still think the team has potential. And really, this was the only way to go--the team was going to have to be dismantled at some point. Why not do it now and start the rebuilding process rather than trying to plug holes in a dam later (ala the San Fran 49ers)?
I will miss these players. As one caller pointed out, you don't forget your first love. These players were a group that won over many fans to the Titans and gave us the Music City Miracle and our trip to the Super Bowl. The team had phenomenal success with these guys and I hope they have a ton of success wherever they land next. I'm sorry it can't be for the Titans, but I understand that this is how it works these days. And I stand behind my team even now. I will still support the Titans and love them--win or lose. I will still do my best to go to games, watch them on TV and wear more Titans apparal than any one person should.
I just hope the rest of Titans fans will do the same and not be band wagon jumpers.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/22/2005 01:26:00 PM