NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans are moving on without Vince Young, putting them back in the market for a new quarterback for only the third time since 1995.
And just like when they signed Steve McNair and later Young, the draft appears to be the Titans' best chance at filling the gaping hole with a possible lockout looming.
"We will explore all of the options that are available to us to solidify the quarterback position for the upcoming season," general manager Mike Reinfeldt said when the Titans announced they will either trade or release Young.
Right now the draft is the Titans' only real option, as teams can only swap picks. Teams can't work trades of veterans until the new NFL year begins — and that clock won't start until a new labor deal is reached.
"I wouldn't say that the Titans' picture is bleak. I think probably what they did was best for the organization and will be for years to come because I think they'll find somebody," Brandt said. "It's not like you're shooting darts, and it's one in a million. These players are available."
The April draft is stocked with Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker of Washington and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas. Auburn's Cam Newton is expected to turn pro. Brandt said Idaho's Nathan Enderle is very similar to Josh Freeman and could be available in the second round.
Tampa Bay traded up to get Freeman out in 2009, making him the third quarterback taken. Freeman led the Bucs to a 10-6 record this season, a year after their 3-13 campaign. Brandt pointed out people questioned Freeman's resume when he was coming out of Kansas State.
Other quarterbacks who had immediate NFL success include Joe Flacco taking Baltimore to the playoffs three straight seasons, while Matt Ryan has won 31 games with Atlanta since being drafted. Brandt said more quarterbacks come out of college ready for the NFL because college teams are throwing the ball more than ever before.
The Titans, having missed the last two playoffs, just need to pick someone and put him to work with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, who Brandt called one of the better unknowns in the NFL. Brandt also said the Titans have plenty to work with on a roster featuring left tackle in Michael Roos, receiver Kenny Britt and running back Chris Johnson.
"You'll be surprised and shocked how fast your team comes back," Brandt said. "It's not like losing somebody. It's so much different than it was 10 or 20 years ago when quarterbacks didn't come out, and we didn't have the amount of quarterbacks in the National Football League that we have now."
If the Titans choose to go for a veteran, options will be limited and the price high with teams wanting to hold onto what they have.
Kevin Kolb could be trade bait with Michael Vick ahead of him in Philadelphia, but the Eagles think highly of Kolb and are expected to ask for a first-round pick for the first quarterback ever to throw for 300 yards in his first two career starts. Kolb is under contract for another year, but the Titans saw Kolb up close when they beat him Oct. 24 with backup Kerry Collins.
Fisher said earlier this week bringing back Collins is a possibility, not necessarily as a starter. Collins had his best performance with Tennessee in a 23-20 loss at Indianapolis, throwing for 300 yards with two touchdowns.
"He's still got time left," Fisher said.
The challenge of a lockout will be a team's inability to immediately start teaching a rookie quarterback the offense until a new labor deal is reached.
"So that might be March 6th. That might be June 1st. That might be Sept. 25. You never know," Brandt said. "So it's a precarious situation. But the thing you have to understand is that everybody's under the same rules so to speak. It's not that Tennessee is going to be penalized. It's anybody else that takes and hires a new coach."