The Tennessee Titans do not normally sit at the main table when it comes to the poker game of NFL free agency.
But with free agency set to open tomorrow afternoon, the Titans find themselves in the most unusual and dangerous set of circumstances.
According to multiple sources, the Titans front office was preparing to make a serious run at Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams, perhaps the best free agent defensive lineman to hit the market since Reggie White two decades ago.
The Titans, at now more than $29 million under the cap, were ready to go after the 27-year-old defensive end, knowing that he would be a serious upgrade to anything they have on the defensive line. It is probably part of the reason the Titans are so willing to let Cortland Finnegan walk away tomorrow, because fetching Williams would make everyone on the defense better, and it could also change the course of the Titans draft strategy from need to best player available.
But a funny thing happened on the way to making that sales pitch to Williams.
Owner Bud Adams stepped in over the weekend and made very public the notion that he wants Peyton Manning to be a Titan, even going so far as to promise him a front office job once his playing days are through.
The Titans will get a chance to make their pitch to Manning. Coach Mike Munchak will meet with the former University of Tennessee legend sometime over the next couple of days, presumably in Houston so Adams can make his plea as well.
But as free agency dawns, the Titans are now in a high stakes came of chicken. TitanInsider has been told that the chances of landing Manning might be as good as even money. But are those odds a risk the franchise is willing to take?
Adams probably can't be talked out of going down this path. Seeing his 90th birthday approaching and still no Super Bowl ring on his finger, on one hand it's hard to blame him for going after the best quarterback of a generation, one who has shredded his team time and again over the years.
But the problem is, what if they don't get Manning? Even though both Manning and Williams are represented by the same firm – CAA - Williams probably won't wait around for Manning's situation to resolve itself. Someone else will make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL if the Titans don't step to the plate quickly starting Tuesday.
In a situation where either/or could be a giant step toward making the Titans a Super Bowl caliber team, the prospect of neither landing in Tennessee is still an option because of the scenario that has been created.