Titans coach Jeff Fisher has made it clear to Vince Young. If the young quarterback wants to play, he's going to have to earn his job back.
Standing in the way is Kerry Collins, whom Tennessee re-signed to a two-year, $15 million deal with $8.5 million guaranteed -- and he's coming back as the starter. Young remains under contract for three more seasons, and the Titans hope he'll be motivated to improve.
"Vince is in a situation now where he will have to do everything he possibly can to earn his job back," Fisher said at the NFL owners' meetings in California. "That starts with the offseason commitment."
Young goes into his fourth season with three years left on his contract. His first season, when he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, arguably is his best. He threw for only one touchdown with two interceptions and three sacks in three games last season.
The quarterback who balked at returning to the field in the 2008 opener because he was booed doesn't have great career numbers outside his 18-12 record as a starter. In 33 games, he has more interceptions (32) than touchdown passes (22), and the quarterback who prides himself on his mobility has 10 career TDs rushing but has been sacked 53 times.
Fisher said Young came to his office to ask what he needed to do to earn the starting job back. The coach said the Titans just want to get the best players at every position.
"Kerry is returning as our starter. If for some reason Vince has a great camp and Kerry hits a wall, I'm talking about a hypothetical, but there is always that possibility," Fisher said.
The Titans want Young to show them something this year. At $4.6 million, his salary isn't too costly this year, but the tab goes up with his base salary alone at $7.5 million and $8.5 million for 2010 and 2011.
Tennessee also needs Young to be ready and push Collins in case something happens to the veteran.
They lost Chris Simms to Denver in free agency, so the Titans are looking to bring in an experienced quarterback. They brought Patrick Ramsey in for a visit earlier this month, and will add someone to the roster before training camp in July.
"We've always had three quarterbacks in camp, so yes there will be a third quarterback in camp," Fisher said. "I would expect a veteran."
Fisher has said repeatedly since the 2008 season opener that Young is the franchise's quarterback and will be under center eventually. But he has avoided trying to pressure Young too much publicly and declined in California to call 2009 a make-or-break season for Young.
"I don't think you could put that type of pressure on a player. He's still a young quarterback with a lot of years left," Fisher said.