Titans expect to act early in free agency

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Titans have been a patient, methodical free agent team in recent years.

I just ran through their roster and lineups from recent years and came up with Matt Hasselbeck. But the Titans were desperate for a veteran quarterback in 2011 when they signed him quickly to a three-year, $20 million deal. That was the year with condensed free agency because of the lockout.

Before that, receiver Nate Washington was the last “big” free agent the Titans signed early in the process for significant money.

Six years, $27 million with $9 million guaranteed.

But "early" in the process? I’m finding Washington landed his deal on March 2, 2009 and free agency that year started Feb. 27, when the Redskins pounced on Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

So Washington’s deal came four days into free agency, as did a contract for defensive tackle Jovan Haye.

This team has holes, and currently has more than $18 million in salary cap room.

Last year, owner Bud Adams sent them in pursuit of Peyton Manning. Mike Munchak has said more than once that pursuing Manning threw the team off its plan to pursue other people who were gone by the time Manning landed in Denver.

Could the Titans be bigger players than usual early in free agency this year?

Could they be negotiating with at least one free agent-to-be in the three-day negotiating window the league has created before free-agency kicks off March 12?

“I would think we definitely would be,” Munchak said. “The hard part is you do a lot of homework right now, and then some of these guys sign with their teams in the last 48-hours or they get franchised. But I think there are people we are identifying we are interested in that could help us. It’s just a matter of who’s available. And again, the hard part is we could want them real bad, but five other teams may want them also.”

Among names I believe they could look at: Bills guard Andy Levitre, Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson and Falcons safety William Moore.

The vibe is they want a free agent class like they got in 2006, when safety Chris Hope, linebacker David Thornton and center Kevin Mawae added a strong dose of veteran leadership and did a lot to change the team’s culture.

This is just Ruston Webster’s second year as the team’s general manager. If he gets out there early and is in the mix for quality veterans who don’t qualify as discounts, a lot of Titans followers might feel a lot better about where the team is heading.

If he doesn’t, there will be a lot of lamenting.

They need more than the draft and second-tier free agency can provide.