With the season heading toward the final stretch, some Tennessee Titans veteran players are wondering exactly what their futures might be.
The subject especially involves veterans like Keith Bulluck, Kevin Mawae and Kyle Vanden Bosch — all of whom are past 30 and in the final year of their contracts.
So could this season’s final four games be their final ones in a Titans uniform?
“I don’t know if I’m sitting here hoping for anything. I feel like I’ve put my best foot forward for this organization for 10 years,” said linebacker Keith Bulluck, who is scheduled to start his 134th straight game on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Thus far, the Titans have had no conversations with Bulluck’s agent Gary Wichard about an extension, though the franchise tag is still a possibility, especially if the uncapped year eventuates in 2010, giving each team two tags to use.
“I don’t feel they owe me anything. I don’t feel I owe them anything. But if this is the last four, then it’s the last four,” Bulluck, 32, said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. It’s business. I work here. The relationships that I’ve built, they’re not going to go anywhere.”
Mawae, who signed here four years ago after being let go by the New York Jets, turns 39 in January, but said after struggling with injuries at the end of the past two seasons, that he feels rejuvenated and wants to keep playing.
“I’m playing well this year. I’m having a solid season. I have no reason to want to retire,” Mawae said. “I still play with a passion, and I’m still playing very good football. I haven’t entertained the thought about retiring at all. But I understand the team has got some decisions to make. Hopefully, we’re not done here. … But you never know what the team is going to do.”
On Monday, when Vanden Bosch was honored at the Titans’ Community Man of the Year, cornerback Cortland Finnegan used his meeting with the media that day to lobby for the Titans to re-sign the veteran defensive end. Thus far, talks in that regard have only been preliminary ones.
Vanden Bosch, 31, said he appreciated the gesture that Finnegan made on his behalf.
“I appreciate when other players, especially guys like Cortland, compliment me and respect me as a teammate,” Vanden Bosch said.
Of course, for all three players, an uncapped year could mean a bigger payday somewhere else if they have to leave Tennessee after the season.
A team that feels it is one veteran away from a potential Super Bowl might be more inclined to invest in a big payday short-term for a player who can come in and put them over the top.
“Don’t you think I know that? It’s a good year, but [some] are throwing around the franchise word,” Bulluck said. “There is no market now. There is no market for the 2010 season. I don’t know what my worth is.”
That is especially the case with an uncapped year on the horizon. Such a deal already threatens to move such Titans as Bo Scaife, LenDale White. Stephen Tulloch and Tony Brown from the unrestricted free agent market to the much more manageable restricted market.
The Titans usual way of doing business with many of their free agents is to take a deliberate approach to the situation.
Bulluck says he is glad it will work out on his terms, either way it goes.
“One thing I’m grateful of, that a lot of guys that played here in the past can’t say, is if this is my last go-around, I get to leave on my own terms,” Bulluck said. “No lock out of the building, no missing by a little bit. I’ve had a great time here, and it’ll end on a great note, if it does end.”