Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese says he hopes to have the team’s $14 million salary cap woes well on the way to being cleaned up soon.
Reese spent much of the past week engaging in telephone conversations with various agents regarding restructuring and reworking various contracts in order to ease Tennessee’s cap situation.
Deadlines are beginning to press on Reese as the Titans scouting staff arrives today at Baptist Sports Park to begin detailed meetings in preparation for the NFL Combine at the end of the this month, which is the precursor to the April draft.
Reese will not only be monitoring that, but will still be engaged in talks with agents throughout the week.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people, and we’ll still be talking to them,” Reese said. “I would hope that we can get some of them done by the middle of the week.”
Reese said many variables factor into exactly how many players will have to be restructured in order to get below the projected $75 million cap.
“A whole lot depends on which ones we’re able to restructure,” Reese said. “If we can start at the top and do the big ones, then we’ll probably only need to do three or four. But if we have to starting doing some of the smaller ones, then that number will start expanding.”
The Titans currently have 12 players scheduled to count at least $3 million against the 2003 salary cap. Heading the list are quarterback Steve McNair ($8.12 million), linebacker Randall Godfrey ($8.08 million), cornerback Samari Rolle ($7.38 million), tackle Brad Hopkins ($6.62 million), running back Eddie George ($6.35 million), tackle Fred Miller ($5.90 million) and defensive end Kevin Carter ($5.70 million).
Many of those players have had deals restructured before, and if the Titans can come up with the adequate funds with the big contracts, it might save them from having to make tough decisions on such veterans as defensive tackle Henry Ford or quarterback Neil O’Donnell, according to Reese.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to do anything with those guys. It all depends on how many of the giant contracts we can get done,” Reese said.
Once the cap situation is in proper order, the Titans can then turn their attention, if they wish, to keeping one or two of their 10 unrestricted free agents off the market.
“Hopefully, we’ll be in a position to prevent one or two of them from getting out there,” Reese said. “There’s always some that want to stay, and some that want to move on for whatever reason, and some that will end up looking around and if there’s not a big deal out there, may end up coming back.”
Mitchell wants to stay?
Jordan Woy, agent for free-agent-to-be Donald Mitchell, said the cornerback has the potential to be one of Tennessee’s keepers this upcoming off-season.
“Donald likes it there, and we are certainly open to the possibility of returning to Tennessee,” Woy said, adding that he and Mitchell would have to consider several factors.
The main thing Mitchell has to reconcile is returning to Tennessee in his role of nickelback/special teams ace as opposed to the opportunity to start elsewhere as a top two cornerback.
Many teams last year used three-wide sets against the Titans and Mitchell averaged more than 50 defensive snaps per game on the defense.
“We’ve talked to Donald [about a new deal],” Reese said. “I think the thing Donald has to weigh is if somebody has told him he can be a starting cornerback in the league versus his role here. He’s got a nice job here, and he’s done a good job in it.”
Another Titans free agent who could be facing a major decision this off-season is wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Dyson had surgery to repair a serious hamstring injury and missed the final month of the regular season and the playoffs.
Reese said he spoke with Dyson’s agent Gary Wichard about the receiver last week.
The dilemma facing Dyson’s impending free agency is that he is still in the recovery process and won’t be able to showcase his skills to potential suitors for a while.
“I think one of the things they’re concerned with is that by the time he’s healthy and ready to go, the market may be starting to dry up,” Reese said.
Titans president Jeff Diamond agreed Friday evening to a one-year deal to remain as team president. Diamond said the one-year deal would keep him in place for now and that after a period of time, he and owner Bud Adams would likely begin talks on a longer deal.