We resume our series looking at the Titans position by position as they enter the 2010 offseason with a look at the man in the middle of the offensive line, the center.
For the fourth straight season, Kevin Mawae was the guy snapping the ball to the quarterback most of the time. With injuries forcing him to miss virtually all of the offseason work, 2009 shaped up to be another potentially injury-stricken season for the veteran. In fact, his elbow rounded into form and, unlike the previous two seasons, he started and played all 16 games and made another trip to a warm place for the Pro Bowl. His backup was Leroy Harris, but his work came at RT filling in for Dave Stewart against the 49ers, and not at center.
What matters for free agency, though, is that Harris and Mawae are both out of contract, but Mawae will be an unrestricted free agent while Harris will be restricted and easy to re-sign barring the extraordinarily unlikely event of a new CBA deal between now and the start of a new league year on March 5. Media reports indicate that the Titans haven’t been talking to Mawae and will likely wish to see the veteran shoved into the backfield by 3-4 nose tackles while wearing another team’s colors in 2010.
It’s virtually certain that, barring injury, Harris will be starting on the Titans’ offensive line come Week 1 this fall. The only question, though, is whether the recently re-signed* Eugene Amano will be occupying the left guard spot he’s been in the past two seasons with Harris at center or Harris at left guard and Amano at center. My personal view is that Amano has been a mediocre guard but played very well at center as a fill-in, while Harris could be a very good guard. In his guards analysis, Andrew wrote that he considered Amano more of a natural guard and Harris more of a natural center. We shall see how OL coach Mike Munchak makes the call.
Beyond Amano, Harris, and Mawae, the only players listed on the roster as being able to play center is Fernando Velasco. Velasco was an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2008 who spent all of that season on the Titans’ practice squad, where he also spent 15 of the 17 weeks of 2009. The exceptions were the aforementioned game in San Francisco and the season finale against Seattle, with the 49ers game being the only one where he made the active roster. I have nothing interesting to say about him, even to me. With Harris or Amano playing guard, Velasco probably stands a good shot at making the 53-man roster unless the Titans add who could beat him out. With only 2 confirmed bodies, at least one more player will be added for camp purposes, but given the other roster needs, particularly on defense, don’t expect to see much investment at the position. The Titans will probably be comfortable going into 2010 with Amano, Harris, Velasco, and right guard Jake Scott the interior linemen.