New Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster fielded questions from season ticketholders on Tuesday and touched on a variety of topics, including the recovery of receiver Kenny Britt, the impending free agency of Cortland Finnegan and the upcoming quarterback competition between Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker.
He also talked very briefly about Peyton Manning, though he couldn't say much because Manning is still under contract with the Colts. He did say enough to indicate that Manning be a Titan next year, even if he is released in Indianapolis.
Webster says Locker will get a real chance in preseason and training camp to win the starting job, something the GM says last year's first-round pick has earned.
“Coach (Mike) Munchak has told them they were gonna compete, and that’s the way it’s gonna be,” Webster said. “Jake showed enough during the season to warrant a chance to win the job and he’ll have a good shot to do that. He’s a very talented player. He brings a lot of excitement to the game, and we are as excited as you are about bringing him out there. It’ll be a good competition. It won’t just be Matt’s job, and Matt knows that. The best man will win.”
The “best man,” in Tennessee, however won't be Manning.
“Because he’s under contract, I can’t really talk about him. On the flip side of that, we’re excited about our quarterback situation,” Webster said. “I think Matt brought us through the difficult times last year, especially once we lost Kenny Britt last year. I think everyone saw glimpses of Jake Locker, and with Jake, I think everyone is excited about his future. Obviously, Peyton is a great player, but we also feel like we’re in good hands.”
The Titans, armed with about $35 million in salary cap space, have enough to deal with regarding their own free agents, the ones who will be hitting the market at need positions from other teams, and the 2012 rookie class that will be evaluated at the NFL Combine in two weeks.
“We’ve got 17 unrestricted free agents coming up to the March 13 deadline, so we’re working on that and trying to really get started on those issues,” he said. “Our scouts are coming in today where we’ll have eight days of pre-Combine meetings. Both of those things are going to be going on at the same time.”
Of course, chief among the Titans free agents is cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
“As far as Cortland, I spoke to his agent (Terry Watson) briefly at the Senior Bowl, and we’re still kind of going through all that and what we want to do with all our players free agency-wise, including him,” Webster said.
Webster's goal is to upgrade the roster thoroughly, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“I really want to upgrade us all the way through defensively and try to get better at each spot, up front, at linebacker and in the secondary. There are some good DBs in this year’s draft, and we’ll take a hard look at those,” Webster said. “Linebacker is a position we’ve been trying to upgrade and we feel like we’re continuing to get better. We had a couple of young guys that played pretty well for us this past year, and we’re gonna continue to build on that. … We want to improve our pass rush, which will help those DBs out on the back side, too.”
Webster was also asked about receiver Kenny Britt, who tore his ACL in September and is rehabbing.
“Kenny has been working hard and he’s coming fast, probably even a little faster than I thought he would. So I’m real happy about that,” he said. “We expect to have him out there for training camp. The good thing about his injury, is there is a good thing, is it happened early, and he’s a very strong young and bounces back very quickly. We’re hoping and planning to have him back for training camp.”