Titans Face Tough Off-Season Decisions

The business end of the NFL is about to take center stage for the Titans. A team that thought it was a Super Bowl contender back in August after a 13-3 finish in 2008 is staggering to the finish line with no playoff life left. The only thing Tennessee has to play for is Chris Johnson's pursuit of 2,000 yards.

What that means is that a day of reckoning is about to arrive for a team stacked with veteran players who are at the end of their contracts. Stalwarts such as injured linebacker Keith Bulluck and veteran leaders such as center Kevin Mawae and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch are up for free agency, as are other veterans such as tight end Alge Crumpler, cornerback Nick Harper and defensive end Jevon Kearse.

In all, the Titans have 17 players who can be free agents this season, though six of those will only be restricted free agents unless a new collective bargaining agreement can be reached to avoid an uncapped year in 2010.

Mawae, who doubles as the president of the NFL Players Association, says he would somehow like to return to Tennessee next season to play, even as he approaches age 39.

"For me, it's not unsettling. My individual situation will work itself out," Mawae said. "As it pertains to the collective bargaining agreement, there's nothing I can do about that, other than to be in the know from the union standpoint. But as far as how it affects my contract, I've got no control over it."

Mawae has made his feeling known to management and the coaching staff. "I'd love to be here. Jeff (Fisher) knows my feelings, and so does Mike Munchak. I think my play speaks for itself, so it's not like I have to prove anything," Mawae said. "It's just what the priorities are. I know we've got other guys on this team that are up. It's a business, and once this season ends, the business part begins, and I understand that."

Bulluck could be feeling the pain of free agency more than any other Titan. Set to enter the marketplace for the first time in his 10-year NFL career, Bulluck tore the ACL in his left knee against Miami and will undergo surgery Wednesday, putting him on the market as, at best, an unknown, and at worst, damaged goods. In actuality, the injury might have saved him as a Titan. No negotiations had taken place on a new extension, but now, the best option for Bulluck and the team might be a one-year make-good deal with incentives.

As for Vanden Bosch, his efforts over the years have been a driving force behind the Titans defense. Even though Vanden Bosch's numbers have slipped a bit, the Titans might try to sign him to be a role player of sorts.

While he doesn't know what the future will hold, Vanden Bosch would like to stay in Tennessee, if possible. He signed four years ago as a free agent from Arizona.

"Someday when I'm looking back on my career, I'm gonna remember being a Titan," he said. "This is where I had a lot of success, had a lot of great teammates and coaches, and everything came together for me here. This is where my twins were born. So this is home for us."


--QB Vince Young hopes to rebound from his worst start of the season, an 8-of-21, two-interception game against San Diego. Young has 10 TD passes and six interceptions this season.

--RB Chris Johnson, in addition to needing 128 rushing yards get 2,000 and 234 to surpass Eric Dickerson's single-season record, needs just 75 yards from scrimmage to break Marshall Faulk's record of 2,429.

--WR Kenny Britt is tied for third on the team in catches with 41, but his 687 yards receiving are far and away best on the club, 201 yards better than the next closest player, WR Nate Washington.

--WR Nate Washington has become more of a possession receiver rather than the deep threat he was in Pittsburgh. Washington has 41 catches, setting a career high.

--TE Bo Scaife has 43 catches this season, 15 fewer than his career high of 58 set last season.

--DE Jacob Ford, who comes off the bench as part of the defensive line rotation, leads the Titans with 5.5 sacks. He had seven sacks a year ago.

--CB Nick Harper could miss the season finale in Seattle after re-injuring his forearm against San Diego. He originally broke the forearm on Oct. 11 vs. Indianapolis.

--CB Rod Hood could get the start in injured Nick Harper's place vs. the Seahawks. He has three interceptions in three starts this year, but he has been inactive for six weeks.

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