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Titans looking for new starting QB

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Posted Jan. 07, 2011 @ 2:45 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

The Titans could have a drastically different look at quarterback next season.

They have already committed to trade or release QB Vince Young, whom they drafted No. 3 overall five years ago. Kerry Collins, who has made 32 starts for Tennessee in the last five seasons and will be 39 next December, is slated to be a free agent. Beyond that, the Titans have 30-year-old Chris Simms, whom they signed in November when Young suffered a season-ending thumb injury and is slated to be a free agent; and rookie QB Rusty Smith, a developmental prospect who has a long way to go to be an NFL regular. Collins, who still has a strong arm and played well at points late in the season, could be back as a reserve, the way we hear it. 

With the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft, the Titans are potentially positioned to be players for one of the top passing prospects in a strong draft class, with Washington's Jake Locker the top senior prospect and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett among the top underclassmen who had declared as of this writing. The way we hear it, drafting a passer seems a likely route for Tennessee to take. Owner Bud Adams pushed for Tennessee to take Young five years ago, and before that, the franchise selected the late Steve McNair third overall in 1995, so when the need arises, Adams is not afraid to commit a high pick and the corresponding large compensation package to an untested passer.

Finding a standout, long-term solution in free agency could be easier said than done, as it is very rare for a blue-chip passer to ever hit the open market. (For instance, it's extremely unlikely that Colts QB Peyton Manning or Eagles QB Michael Vick, whose deals expire after the season, will become available.) What's more, the uncertainty about an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and players complicates matters, too.

Young passers with some upside whose contracts expire include Pittsburgh's Dennis Dixon (three years of service), Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson (five), Houston's Matt Leinart (five), San Francisco's Alex Smith (six), Detroit's Drew Stanton (four) and Miami's Tyler Thigpen (four). Among more experienced passers slated to become free agents, Baltimore's Marc Bulger could top the list. It's conceivable that other experienced veteran passers could be cut, too, deepening the pool of candidates.

In the trade market, Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb could be a top target, though the Eagles would seem likely to ask for a king's ransom in return.

Much could depend on whether head coach Jeff Fisher, whose future with Tennessee had not been decided as of this writing, returns. If the status quo is maintained at head coach and the current offense remains in place, a complete revamping of the QB depth chart would seem unlikely.

What is clear, however, is that Young will no longer hold the top spot.

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