NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jake Locker's contract numbers for his fourth season in 2014 are easily manageable, no matter his role.
He'll count $4.004 million against the cap and cost $2.091 million in cash.
Based on that, there is no question the Titans would want him around, whether Mike Munchak or a replacement is coaching the franchise.
But there is a complication.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean spells it out:
The Titans have an option for 2015 but must decide by May 3, 2014, if they're going to exercise it. ...
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, teams exercising the fifth-year option for a top-10 pick have to pay him a salary equal to the NFL transition tag.
That means in 2015, Locker would make the average salary of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks during the 2014 season.
The transition tag for quarterbacks this year is $13.068 million.
So at the start of May, the Titans have to decide on whether to pay Locker a number that will exceed $13 million in 2015.
That decision comes before, not after, the draft, which is May 8-10.
Committing to keeping him around in 2014 wouldn't be hard. Pledging that sort of salary to him in 2015, when questions about his durability linger, would be very difficult.
It's a giant decision the franchise will be making based on a limited body of work.
Right now my feeling for the best approach is, don't execute the option and see what he does in 2014. If he's good, he'll earn a payday before he gets to free agency in 2015. If he's not, the Titans would be off the hook for anything further.
The mechanism was created because teams figured to have a good read on a top-10 pick after three seasons and it was a reasonable timeframe for him to get a big salary bump scheduled.
Sit a guy for his rookie year and watch him get hurt three times in the two seasons after that and the whole timetable gets skewed.