One of the thing last week’s game against the Colts highlighted for me is a number of veteran players were likely playing their next to last home game. As the Titans head into the final home game of the year against the Jaguars on Sunday, it’s time to highlight a few players who may not be back in two tone blue for 2012. We’ll be breaking down these players’ fates in more detail in our positional analyses after the season is over, but these are starters or regular starters who
Ken Amato: Yes, I’m mentioning the long-snapper. Would you have guessed, though, he’s the longest-tenured Titan? He’s been around so long, he was actually on the team the last time they won a playoff game! Picked up as an undrafted free agent in 2003, it’s not out of the question he could be back next year.
Jordan Babineaux: The first, but not the last, secondary starter to show up on this list, Babineaux’s been mostly solid but unspectacular. He probably has a good chance at returning for 2012, but is not currently under contract beyond this year.
Dave Ball: A great scrap heap redemption project by Jim Washburn, Ball’s been a valuable secondary rusher for the Titans and even this year is tied for second on the team in sacks. (With 3.0. Yes, really.) As with Amato, there’s a chance he’ll be back, but I suspect this will be Dave Ball’s last home game at LP Field as a member of the Titans.
Cortland Finnegan: He of last week’s newspaper story. He wants to be paid what he thinks he’s worth, which by most accounts is a lot more than the Titans think he’s worth. I try to ignore most contractual sturm und drang, but thought the important part of his public declarations was his statement anticipating the franchise tag. It’s likely to be modest enough (perhaps $10.2-10.5 million) Finnegan could somewhat involuntarily remain a Titan in 2012, but he’s likely to look for, and find, greener pastures elsewhere.
Michael Griffin: The third secondary starter to appear on this list, and perhaps the hardest one to figure out. The Titans could franchise him. The Titans could give him good money to stay. I think he’s likely to test the free agency market, find the dollars not as much to his liking as he might want (I don’t think he’ll get the same money Michael Huff did to stay with the Raiders last year), and still end up elsewhere much the way Stephen Tulloch did.
Ahmard Hall: If the Titans were a team that believed strongly in change, I’m not sure Hall would’ve been a member of the team in 2011. Instead, Sarge’s leadership abilities and blocking were valued enough he returned even despite the four-game suspension (where I actually do believe his story). I’d say he’s 50-50 at best to be back in 2012.
Chris Hope: Not a starter this year, losing his job to injury, more or less, but one of the big signings in the key free agency class of 2006 that helped put the franchise on a positive course. Virtually no chance he comes back in 2012, but I’ll be sad to see him go for what he meant.
Chris Johnson: Under contract for 2012 and beyond, of course, but the Titans could opt to cut him for performance-related reasons.
Barrett Ruud: Best seen as a sort of failed experiment. This is worth a post of its own, but Jerry Gray saw read-and-react wasn’t working the way he wanted it to, and Ruud’s not an attacking linebacker. Colin McCarthy doesn’t provide the same versatility in coverage (I don’t recall seeing them play Tampa-2 once with him in the game), but fits the bill much better overall.
Jake Scott: Certainly a better option than paying Jacob Bell more money per year to play left guard, Scott’s play has nevertheless declined during his Titans tenure, and, even without what looks like a good replacement for him on the roster, it’s unlikely he’ll be back in 2012. Remember what he did to help CJ running right in 2009 and for always being a standup guy than for the Titans’ interior struggles this year.
Craig Stevens: Better be back next year, as there’s nothing close to the right replacement for him on the roster.
Anyway, recognize those players, and keep in mind it could be the last chance to recognize their contributions in a Titans uniform. They’ve all been valuable players, even if they haven’t always been as valuable as we would have liked them to be.