How Will NFL Lockout Impact Titans-Vince Young Relationship?

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Earlier this week, Fox Sports‘ On the Clock segment on the Tennessee Titans briefly suggested that Vince Young could remain with the Titans for another year. While seemingly far-fetched, this idea may become reality if the lockout continues for long enough.

Titans G.M. Mike Reinfeldt has stated throughout the offseason that the team’s stance has not changed on Young, and that the Titans will move the controversial quarterback as soon as the lockout is over. However, depending on when the lockout ends, that may not be possible. The NFL’s trade deadline is set for week 6 of the regular season, as usual. If multiple games are missed, then the Titans will have much less time to move Young, whose  $12.75 million price tag for 2011 is extremely prohibitive to making a trade. If the Titans cannot trade Young, they may be forced to keep him. Young is due a $4.25 million roster bonus on the 10th day of the league year. If the Titans are already paying Young one-third of his 2011 compensation, it would be a waste of money to pay him that much and not obtain his services. Young has already indicated that he would not be opposed to returning to Tennessee. 

“I would love to stay in Nashville,” Young told Houston’s Chaney sports in March. “I would love to stay in Tennessee.”

One of the biggest reasons Young was expected to be jettisoned from the Titans was because of an underlying feud with former Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Young has indicated that he is a fan of Fisher’s replacement, Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak.

“I’m a big fan of Munchak,” Young said to Fox Sports Houston.com. “I always call him Big Hall of Famer in the hallways and things like that. I have a lot of respect for him and he has a lot of respect for me so it’s great. He deserves it … like coach Fisher said … he’s definitely the guy for the job.”

If the Titans realize they have to bring Young back for another year, it will certainly be awkward. In a reaction that is very comparable to Cleveland’s removal of the LeBron James “Witness” mural, the Titans already removed the large mural of Young outside LP Field. They have made statements throughout the offseason that they are still looking to move him. All things considered, it would probably take a phone call and apology from Bud Adams to convince Young that he is still wanted in Nashville. Adams, whose statement that “VY is my guy” has become the object of mockery in Nashville the past few months, would probably be willing to do this though. He has been a fan of Young’s since the quarterback was in high school, and probably only agreed to get rid of him earlier this year because his advisors suggested it was necessary to do so to keep Jeff Fisher. With Fisher gone, Adams can try to play it off as if he finally got rid of Fisher and supported Young all along, but it will still be an uncomfortable dynamic.

The question that immediately arises is why the Titans would want such an awkward relationship to continue. The answer to that question is that they literally have no other option. Starting a rookie quarterback will surely cause growing pains, and there will be very few free agent quarterbacks available. In a best-case scenario for the Titans, Carson Palmer and/or Donovan McNabb would be released and the Titans could sign one of them, but neither is anything more than a stopgap solution. Despite all the drama he brings, Young is by far the most promising quarterback who will be available this offseason. He will be 28 this season, still has a ton of mobility, and made tremendous strides in his passing performance last year. He finally learned to keep his feet underneath him when throwing on the run, and his accuracy benefited greatly from it. Before being placed on injured reserve, Young had thrown for 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions, a ratio far better than any of his other seasons. In a market where the demand for quarterbacks greatly exceeds the supply, the Titans are in desperate need of a quarterback.

“That’s probably the biggest need — on the offensive side of the ball, making a decision at the quarterback spot,” Munchak said in February on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning.

Listening to Titans star running back, Chris Johnson, perhaps the Vince Young returning to the Titans isn’t so far fetched. “It is not etched in stone that Vince is going to be gone, so I am not sure what they are going to do at quarterback,” Johnson told the Tennessean. “A lot of things have changed in the last few months, so maybe Vince will be back?

“At first, it was set in stone when coach (Jeff) Fisher was here because he didn’t want Vince back. It was an either-or situation then. Now that coach Fisher is gone, everything is up in the air. We’ll just see what happens.”

All things considered, if the Titans are unable to work up a trade to get rid of Young, keeping him for one more year would be a relatively low-risk move. If it works out and Young plays at a high enough level that it appears he can truly be the Titans’ quarterback for another ten years, then the team will be better off at this point next year than it was this year. If it doesn’t work out, and Young brings his typical drama, the Titans can jettison him next offseason, when there will be no lockout and quarterbacks will be easier to obtain. If Young continues his usual behavior and the decision to keep him blows up in the Titans’ face, Munchak can simply blame it on the lockout and move on.

When the Titans’ next-best options are Kerry Collins or a rookie, what else can they do?