In a somewhat surprising move, the Tennessee Titans released kick returner Mark Jones on Friday, leaving themselves with a potential hole in the return game.
Jones, a former University of Tennessee standout, was signed as a free agent from the Carolina Panthers specifically to be the Titans’ return man this year, but was released in final cuts, along with a number of other players on Friday.
“The process has started. I’ll confirm that some players have been notified, but we’ll have a complete list for you tomorrow. I’m not going to go into who was released today,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve got competitive issues, we’ve got a process ongoing, and we’ve got a lot of things that we have to discuss. It has started and it’s not easy. We’ll turn the list in when the list is required to be turned in tomorrow and that’s 5 p.m. our time.”
In another development, indications are that the Titans apparently will go with three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, keeping Patrick Ramsey along with starter Kerry Collins and Vince Young.
The Titans also let go of cornerback DeMarcus Faggins and receiver Paul Williams, a third-round pick by the team in 2007.
Faggins was brought in as an unrestricted free agent from the Houston Texans, but struggled in preseason with coverage, while Williams never found a role in Mike Heimerdinger’s offense and was active for only five of a possible 32 games in two years.
Other players released by the Titans on Friday included fullback/tight end Casey Cramer, linebackers Rocky Boiman and Josh Stamer, safeties Nick Schommer and Tuff Harris, defensive tackle Mitch King, punter A.J. Trapasso, cornerback Tanard Davis, receiver Phillip Morris and offensive linemen Jason Murphy and Fernando Velasco, fullback Rodney Ferguson, tight end Matthew Mulligan and defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey. Guards Cory Lekkerkerker and Ryan Durand were reported to have been released by the team as well.
Trapasso, Morris and Velasco, according to their agents, are potential practice squad players if they clear waivers.
Jones, signed in the off-season to handle the return chores, had been bothered by a hamstring injury for much of preseason, and fumbled a kickoff in his return last week against Cleveland.
However, Jones also had a 44-yard kickoff return and a 21-yard punt return in Thursday night’s preseason finale against Green Bay, and appeared at that time to have strengthened his chances of making the 53-man roster.
With Jones gone, the Titans have Javon Ringer who can return kickoffs. There is the possibility that Ryan Mouton will handle punts and/or kickoffs when he returns from a high ankle sprain
Unless the Titans make a trade or waiver pickup, it appears that defensive back Cortland Finnegan would be the odds-on favorite to return punts until Mouton heals. Michael Griffin can also return kicks if needed.
Fisher did not sound concerned about the process.
“We have returners. I’m not concerned about that. We’ve got guys on the roster that can do that,” Fisher said.
Other veterans who could still be on the bubble include running backs Chris Henry and Quinton Ganther and linebacker Ryan Fowler.
Henry does have $420,000 in guaranteed money for 2010 that would accelerate onto the Titans cap this year if he is released.
With Ramsey looking more secure, it appears the Titans will carry three quarterbacks for a second consecutive year with Kerry Collins as the starter, Vince Young as the backup and Ramsey at No. 3.
Ramsey completed 5 of 8 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in the preseason finale Thursday night against Green Bay.