One man’s retirement is another man’s really big paycheck. Or something like that.

While we were busy poetically reminiscing about the underrated career of Kerry Collins yesterday, other football scribes couldn’t even let the legendary quarterback bask in the glow of retirement for a few minutes before speculating about his replacement in Tennessee. Aren’t there still more Tiki Barber reports to generate?

Anywho, inevitably Matt Hasselbeck’s name was passed around quicker than a rare bottle of exotic champagne at a Boston Bruins shirtless celebration. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback and soon-to-be free agent was mentioned by ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky, who noted that Hasselbeck’s value climbed a few rungs with Collins’ retirement.

Even if he had decided to stick around for one more season, at 39 years old Collins wasn’t exactly set to become a hot commodity on the open market. He was exactly what we all knew he was: a steady, strong-armed veteran who’s ideal for both the mentoring and placeholder roles. The problem is that Hasselbeck is a bridge, not a backup.

At the age of 35 Hasselbeck certainly fits the veteran label. But he’s not the kind of veteran the Titans need as a locker buddy for Locker, mostly because he hasn’t quite reached the locker buddy phase of his career yet. Hasselbeck’s bones are growing more brittle with each passing season, and he’s missed 13 games over the last three years. When healthy his numbers reflect an efficient and steady quarterback, but still far short of the form that saw him flirt with the 4,000 yard mark four years ago.

Hasselbeck’s best production this year came during a five-game stretch between weeks 10 and 14 in which he threw for 1,495 yards while tossing six touchdowns and (gulp) eight interceptions. That’s what he’s left with as his marketing pitch during free agency, but it won’t matter. Hasselbeck’s production may not jump off the page, but he’s maintained consistent play over a prolonged period, a statement no other free agent quarterback and potential Locker babysitter can make.

Does Matt Leinart sound appealing? How about Trent Edwards? Brett Favre could come back!

The problem for the Titans and their pursuit of Hasselbeck that will probably never begin lies in the greenery, because unfortunately professional athletes need to be paid. Hasselbeck reportedly turned down a one-year contract worth $7 million from the Seahawks. That’s a steep price tag for the Titans to pay for a quarterback who’s unlikely to accept a backup role.

Since everything (even world peace and gun control) is tied to the lockout these days, the Titans’ potential interest in Hasselbeck is too. Signing Locker to a rookie deal will become a clear priority once the lockout ends, and as Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times notes, the number determined by the forthcoming rookie wage scale will likely influence whether or not Tennessee jumps into the dangerously shallow QB free agent market.

The question will be how much money Titans owner Bud Adams will pony up to pay a free agent knowing that he’s also going to be on the hook for Locker’s rookie contract.

In that respect, a rookie wage scale might help the Titans’ chances in acquiring Hasselbeck. And there’s some history, too, in Adams letting a quarterback develop slowly. After his franchise — which was then the Oilers — drafted Steve McNair No. 3 overall in 1995. The team signed Chris Chandler as a free agent earlier that same year, and Chandler remained the team’s primary starter for two years until he was traded to Atlanta.

There’s truth in the history O’Neil points to, but that was a different time then, a time when Adams wasn’t competing with Al Davis to be the scariest looking owner in sports. We’ve seen Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and most recently Sam Bradford start immediately as rookies and exceed expectations.

If the Titans aren’t comfortable going that route, then Marc Bulger and Matt Moore are the best options available to begin the season, starting briefly before Locker advances from his learning permit and gets the keys to the offense.

Comments (3)

  1. I think the arguments you make in this post are a bit flawed. First of all, Matt Hasselbeck has specifically come out and said that he would like to mentor Jake Locker (he mentioned Locker by name). To suggest that he isn’t mentally ready to be a “locker buddy” is at odds with Hasselbeck’s own words. Source: http://seahawks.sportspressnw.com/2011/04/17/hasselbeck-wouldn%E2%80%99t-mind-mentoring-locker/

    Also, I think it’s incorrect to suggest that the Titans wouldn’t want to pay Hasselbeck’s asking price to serve as a backup. First, he wouldn’t be a true backup because he would be asked to start for most or all of the season. Locker will not start the season at the top of the depth chart and he may not see any action until late in the season. Second, the Titans have never been shy when it comes to giving more than one quarterback significant money. They signed Kerry Collins to a two-year, $15 million deal in 2009, at a time when they were already paying Vince Young in the range of $8 million per year. Hasselbeck at $8 million and Locker on his rookie deal (which, even without a rookie wage scale, will not be expensive in years 1-2) will be much less than the Titans have been paying for (subpar) quarterback play. The Titans have plenty of cap space, having removed both Vince Young and Kerry Collins’ contracts from their books. I do not see money being an issue in this case.

    There is also a significant connection between Hasselbeck and those in the Titans front office, including general manager Mike Reinfeldt. 

    At this point, I think it’s far more likely than not that Hasselbeck is in Nashville next season.

    Anyhow, I like the site. Sorry if that was an overly-critical comment.

    • No worries, we certainly invite criticism and discussion.

      As far as Hasselbeck’s role in potentially playing alongside Locker or any other developing quarterback is concerned, he certainly has the ability and evidently the desire to be a mentor. But I’m doubting his desire to potentially be a backup, and that was my central point.

      You’re right, there’s a strong possibility that if he signs in Tennessee Hasselbeck spends a good chunk of the season as a starter. But if he struggles–as he did at times this year in Seattle–the hook could be quick, and after consistently being a starter for so many years relegation to a lesser role won’t be an easy task, despite his talk of “paying it forward.”

      If that happens, then $7-8 million becomes a sizable fee for a backup quarterback (Bulger’s expiring contract is worth $3.8 million) even if Tennessee’s pockets are deep enough and the cap space is there. Reaching for Locker at No. 8 overall indicates clear confidence in his ability, so signing a quarterback Like Bulger or Moore at a lesser price to play more of a placeholder role is ideal. Collins was indeed given a nice paycheck at the age of 37, and then he proceeded to play through two poor seasons. The organization doesn’t need to repeat past mistakes.

      Hopefully if the lockout mercifully ends next week we’ll find out, and that’s probably when my prediction will be blown up. But at this point debating Hasselbeck’s future is a nice little change of pace from more Plaxico Burress or Nnamdi Asomugha speculation.

  2. I mostly just liked the delicious pun of talking about Locker buddies for Locker…

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