June 23, 2003
Everybody knew it was coming.
Still, the Titans handled it about as poorly as they could.
As a result, their June 18 release of linebacker Randall Godfrey created some bitter feelings from some players, the first big locker room issue for the team since its miserable 2001 season when defensive players griped about new coaches.
Godfrey took a significant pay cut to stay with the team as the league turned the page into the 2003 calendar year. The landscape shifted some when the Titans signed another linebacker, Peter Sirmon, to a long-term deal after the Rams flirted with the restricted free agent. Then the Titans -- GM Floyd Reese in particular -- fumed at an analysis in The Tennessean newspaper that suggested Godfrey would be released after June 1 as a cost-cutting move.
But Tennessee strung him along, waiting until June 18 to pull the plug in the only move that will save them enough money to allow them to negotiate with three free agents they want back -- punter Craig Hentrich, reserve quarterback Neil O'Donnell and center Gennaro DiNapoli -- and sign their draft picks.
The move saves the Titans $2 million against the cap.
"In essence we're trading one position for three positions," Reese said. "The sad part is Randall did everything he could to try and stay with us and we tried to make that work. Unfortunately for him and for us we just couldn't make it work."
The news that Godfrey had been released was not well received by his teammates.
"He did something for the organization and the team out of good faith and it appears that he was kind of back-stabbed to a certain degree," running back Eddie George said.
Said cornerback Samari Rolle: "In a lot of people's eyes it is going to be a cutthroat move."
"I know there are a lot of people around here that are more upset than they will probably voice," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "It is sad to see him go and sad to see the way it went down."
Godfrey immediately fielded interest from Jacksonville, Seattle and Green Bay. He is from Southern Georgia, not far from Jacksonville.
After an impressive initial season with the Titans in 2001, Godfrey constantly fought injuries. When he was healthy he was a great player, but the Titans found out last year that they will play a high percentage of defensive snaps in nickel with only two linebackers, and Bulluck and Sirmon are capable of filling those roles.
The timing seemed to be Reese's. Godfrey even said Coach Jeff Fisher was apologetic for how things unfolded.
"Coach Fisher said he was upset with how things went down, too," Godfrey said. "He made it seem like it was an upstairs decision to let me go this late. So I don't blame him at all.
"But I do question why it wasn't done (earlier). It kind of leaves me out there now where I have to rush into a system and learn a new system. I thought it was bad timing, but other than that I don't have any real hard feelings." Frank Chamberlin is the front-runner for the middle linebacker spot, though Rocky Calmus and Rocky Boiman may challenge him in camp.