<
>

Titans release injury-plagued veteran guard Piller

Once a key component of the Tennessee Titans' offensive line, veteran guard Zach Piller is now on the unemployment line.

Concerned by injuries that prematurely ended two of Piller's past three seasons and reluctant to pay a prohibitive base salary to a player who was projected to be a backup in the coming season, the Titans have released the eighth-year veteran. The decision, which came after a meeting with Piller, enables the former Titans starter to get a jump on free agency.

"For a number of reasons, Zach was not in our plans [for 2007]," newly hired Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "This allows him to go out and have a head start in free agency. It's the best thing for everyone."

If he is healthy, the 30-year-old Piller should draw solid interest as a free agent. The unrestricted free agent period, in which the talent pool is regarded as one of the thinnest in recent years, does not begin until March 2. But by releasing him now, the Titans have afforded Piller the potential to sign a contract before that.

A third-round choice in the 1999 draft, Piller is a strong inline blocker with a blue-collar mentality. But the former University of Florida standout appeared in just 20 games over the past three seasons and the scheduled base salaries on his contract were $3 million for 2006 and $3.5 million for the coming season.

Piller started all 16 games in 2003 for the first time in his career, then suffered a left biceps injury in '04 that limited him to one game. After coming back to again start 16 games in 2005, Piller appeared in only three games last season because of a left ankle injury.

In his eight seasons with the Titans, Piller appeared in 87 games with 58 starts.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said he is convinced his client is healthy now and confident he will attract suitors.

Tennessee moved third-year veteran Jacob Bell from right tackle to left guard last season to replace Piller. Second-year veteran David Stewart became the starting right tackle and he and Bell both played well.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.