The NFL lockout, which has dragged through the summer with lawsuits, de-certifications and federally led negotiations, might already be over. The owners met "secretly" earlier this week in Chicago, with details nevertheless leaking out. At this point, the Pakistani Army might as well be handling their clandestine maneuvers.
Will they accept a new collective bargaining agreement from the players' association (which players' reps will tell you is no longer a union, but a trade association or guild)? By the time you read this, the owners could have approved a deal to get the season started on time. If not, it might be weeks until any agreement is reached.
It's as if the NFL were the Hanseatic League.
Either way, this will be the shortest off-season in recent memory. And the sprint through signing and free agency will be a veritable land rush. The Tennessee Titans are facing some tough questions in the abbreviated off-season, and the answers could affect the franchise for years. With the first regime change since the team pulled its reverse Davy Crockett, the Mike Munchak administration has to answer the bell.
1. Who's under center?
The Titans have two quarterbacks under contract: Vince Young and Rusty Smith. VY is not going to return. He seems content hanging at his Austin steakhouse rather than working out in an attempt to woo another team. Surely the Titans will move him as soon as they can.
As for Smith, the Red Rocket is, well, a project.
Of course, the Titans will sign draftee Jake Locker tout de suite. Also in the mix is graybeard Kerry Collins, who's done the right thing by showing up to the guerrilla mini-camps at Father Ryan High School and saying he wants to stay here — if he starts. Collins has made a home in Middle Tennessee. After all, he's an aspiring songwriter, albeit one who can afford a $2 million Williamson County home.
The Titans have three options: Locker, Collins or a veteran outsider, perhaps former Seattle signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck, who has connections to the new coaching staff. If the coaches believe all that's keeping them from contender status is a solid QB, they should go after Hasselbeck, who is proven and can lead an offense that Munchak assured fans will "include more screens." Thrilling.
But if the Titans have realized that 6-10 is as good as it's going to get, they should keep Collins in charge — unless the lockout is resolved sooner rather than later. In which case they should go with the rookie, who'll have time to learn the playbook. What's the difference in winning six games with a 38-year-old and winning four with a kid right out of college? One might learn something.
2. What to do with CJ's contract?
Of all the mediocrity the Titans toss out on Sundays, there is one true star: budding hip-hop icon Chris Johnson, whose first guest spot on a rap single features the inventive scheme of rhyming "hos" with "hos" and suggests said ladyfriends cater to him in his Bentley.
Some observers think Johnson will hold out if he doesn't get a big payday, something like $28 or $30 million guaranteed. This for a guy entering his fourth year, historically the zenith of a running back's career.
The Titans should avoid any drama, heightened by the short off-season, and pay him. We can expect a performance drop-off as the contract plays out, but the team could frontload the deal with a hefty signing bonus. And if he hits a Shaun Alexander-style nosedive four or five years from now, it's no big deal.
3. Is Kenny Britt Pac-Man Jones 2.0?
No. But he has acted in a decidedly moronic fashion.
First there were the arrests. Then the Facebook status announcing his retirement and his, ahem, disdain for the commissioner, followed immediately by a meandering apologia and then a third status saying his account was "hacked" — the Weiner Defense — and that neither of the first two statements was his. Apparently, Britt's hacker was mischievous but ultimately polite.
Britt has acted foolishly and clearly doesn't understand that "hacked" does not mean, "I was upset," "one of my 'friends' was messing around" or "I did something stupid and my agent called."
The wide receiver is likely facing disciplinary action from the league for the arrests. Meanwhile, somebody needs to have a discussion with Britt about who he's hanging out with. The best person for this meeting may actually be Randy Moss (not technically under contract), who was once a young, brash receiver with hangers-on from his youth — and who, in the back end of last season, had to be asking, "And I was supposed to be the troublemaker?"
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