One of the most attractive free agents currently on the Tennessee Titans’ roster might prove to be one of the toughest for them to keep.
Aside from defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is expected to either receive a contract extension or the franchise tag before free agency opens, defensive end Antwan Odom could be the Titans player who would generate the most interest on the open market.
The former second-round pick in 2004 put together an eight-sack season this past year after missing all but four games in 2006 with two separate knee injuries, and battling through some inconsistencies his first two years. Odom also tipped seven passes in 2007.
Odom, 26, teamed with Travis LaBoy — also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent — to combine for 14 sacks opposite Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had 12 of his own.
In all, Tennessee’s defensive line spearheaded a resurgence in a defense that went from being ranked last in 2006 to fifth overall in 2007.
Odom’s agent Tony Agnone, who represents the former Alabama star along with Richard Rosa, knows a big payday could be on the horizon for Odom, either with the Titans or somewhere else.
“It might be difficult for them to keep him, because pass rushing ends are at such a premium in this league. It depends on what type of offer is out there. But we’re open to anything. We’ll just have to see what they want to do,” Agnone said.
With the NFL playoffs still ongoing and teams’ front office personnel heading to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Agnone said talks have yet to get started with the Titans about a pre-emptive strike, though he says the sides will talk fairly soon.
“We’ll sit down with Mike [Reinfeldt] and Richard Rosa and discuss what their interest is and see where it goes from there. I haven’t even talked to Antwan about it yet,” said Agnone, who struck a deal to keep Vanden Bosch in Tennessee after the 2005 season. “But we’ll talk to Antwan about what he wants to do. He obviously will have a big say in it. He loves Wash [defensive line coach Jim Washburn] and Jeff Fisher is top of the line, and Mike Reinfeldt is probably one of the smartest guys in the NFL.”
Reinfeldt, while not delving into specific players, expressed optimism that the Titans, armed with approximately $41 million of cap space, could find ways to keep their group of players intact while adding to the roster in free agency.
“If we go through the evaluations and figure who we think the key guys are, I think there’s a realistic chance we could keep all those guys,” Reinfeldt said. “From a cap perspective, we’ll have room to do that. It’s one of the things that make sense for us and for the players. We have a chance to do it. I’m not saying it’s a lock to get done, but I think we have a realistic chance of succeeding at that.”
CHOW TO UCLA: It didn’t take long for Norm Chow to land a new job, as he was introduced Monday as the new offensive coordinator for the UCLA Bruins.
Chow, 61, was fired by the Titans last week, as they opted to rehire Mike Heimerdinger from Denver to take over as offensive coordinator.
Chow spent three seasons in Tennessee, and the offense struggled to produce points, never scoring more than 324 in a season. A week after the Titans managed just two field goals in a 17-6 AFC Wild-Card loss at San Diego, Chow was let go.
By joining the Bruins, Chow returns to college football and returns home to Los Angeles, where his wife and family remained after he took the Titans job. He joins the staff of new Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel, who said even before Chow was let go by the Titans that he would like to have him as his offensive coordinator.
Chow, who coached on the college level for 30-plus years before coming to Tennessee, interviewed for the Bruins’ head coaching vacancy before Neuheisel was hired.