Tennessee’s salary-cap situation could force the team to release as many as seven starters
The Titans appear to be on the verge of a major personnel overhaul this offseason, ready and willing to dump several key veterans — as many, perhaps, as seven starters from last season — because of their high salaries and the team’s tough salary-cap situation.
According to various reports, the team will be about $23 million over the cap next season, and the Titans’ salary purge could mirror what the Ravens did in 2002, one season after winning the Super Bowl. The Titans, of course, have fallen short in recent years, losing the Super Bowl following the 1999 season, falling to the eventual-champion Patriots in the playoffs last season and plummeting to a 5-11 record in 2004 amid major losses because of injury.
The team now is paying for its overspending the past few years, and several veterans could be in serious danger. Among them: WR Derrick Mason, CB Samari Rolle, DT Kevin Carter, FS Lance Schulters and both starting offensive tackles, Brad Hopkins and Brad Miller. Even PK Joe Nedney could be cut.
The most unwieldy contract numbers belong to Carter ($13.97 million), Rolle ($9.81 million), Miller ($9.32 million) and Hopkins ($8.11 million). Sources close to the team say Hopkins could stay put under a reworked deal. The team would love to bring back Mason, a favorite of the organization, but not likely at his $6.65 million figure. Veterans such as Mason and ORG Benji Olson ($4.86 million cap number) could be approached to take a pay cut, but Mason and Rolle have balked at such moves in the past.
Then there’s the situation with QB Steve McNair, who’s due to count $12.63 million against next year’s cap. McNair injured his sternum for the second time in his career last season and openly pondered retirement. Titans GM Floyd Reese told PFW last month that the team will let McNair be for the time being and allow him the space to make a decision on whether to return or retire. And though sources feel McNair will not walk away just yet, the longer the team is in limbo over his future, the harder it will be to keep the higher-priced veterans around and carve out a long-term plan. There are some who feel the team’s roster purge might lead McNair to retire instead of leading a rebuilding charge.