Clash of Titans: Tennessee QB situation 'up in the air'
Thirty-one teams will begin practice on Monday for their regular-season openers knowing the identities of their starting quarterbacks.
And then there are the Tennessee Titans.
"Our quarterback situation," allowed coach Jeff Fisher on Saturday, "is pretty much up in the air."
Well, at least publicly, it is.
Fisher said the team will make a decision about its starter later in the week. But one suspects that the Tennessee coaching staff, which lobbied hard for the addition of veteran free agent Kerry Collins last Monday, prefers that the 12th-year veteran start next Sunday against the New York Jets, even though he will have had fewer than two weeks to assimilate coordinator Norm Chow's design.
Given that Fisher has already named first-round draft choice Vince Young the No. 2 guy on the depth chart, and laid out a plan for getting the former Texas star a series or two of playing time in every game, that means Billy Volek will have plummeted in a week's time from the presumptive starter to No. 3 status.
Unless, of course, Volek isn't on the roster for the opener, which remains a distinct possibility.
Indications are that general manager Floyd Reese will continue to shop Volek in trade talks -- there were discussions with San Diego and Indianapolis over the past few days, but the Titans could not elicit an offer they deemed acceptable -- but that Tennessee won't simply give away the six-year veteran. San Diego in particular, which has just two quarterbacks on the roster, neither of whom has started a regular-season game, seems a logical spot. But most teams interested in Volek aren't likely to overpay, in part because they sense the Titans will eventually release him, rather than have a disgruntled backup around.
Volek, whose résumé includes 10 starts and who was scheduled to supplant the departed Steve McNair atop the depth chart, hasn't said much publicly about his pending demotion. But he may turn up the heat this week in an effort to force his departure. And there are reasons, beyond his unhappiness, for the Titans to want to facilitate his exit.
As a vested veteran, Volek is guaranteed his full $1 million base salary for 2006 if he is on the roster for the opening game. While the Titans' salary cap is in much better shape entering this season than in most recent years, owner Bud Adams might not be inclined to pay a seven-figure salary for a guy who figures to take a step back on the depth chart.
Volek has a no-trade clause in his contract, but as ESPN.com reported last week, he is willing to waive it to facilitate a deal.
If the Titans do elevate Collins into the starting role, as anticipated, he will enter next Sunday's matchup with the Jets with precious little exposure to Chow's offensive blueprint. Unofficially, Collins worked 23 snaps in last Friday's preseason finale, after practicing only a few days. By comparison, Volek logged 81 snaps in four preseason games and Young was on the field for 122 plays.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .