Titans offer tenders to six players; notable vets likely testing market

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are quietly sliding into free agency.

With a handful of veterans hitting the market at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Titans' biggest move in the hours before the start of free agency was agreeing to terms with their long snapper, Ken Amato. They also offered tenders to six restricted free agents, including defensive tackle Tony Brown and tight end Bo Scaife.

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That means veterans such as linebacker Keith Bulluck, tight end Alge Crumpler, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, and center Kevin Mawae are among eight Titans ready to test the market. It's part of the Titans' youth movement, which started in February when the team signed left guard Eugene Amano to a five-year deal.

"What it does is it shows in a lot of situations we've done a good job drafting, and we have had players developing, and it is now time for them to step up and be productive," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said last weekend during the NFL Scouting Combine.

"We have expressed all along we have interest in having Kyle come back to return as a starter, and that has not changed. We are running out of time, however, and there is a chance he may get out there, and we'll see what happens. We have definite interest in having him back, in addition to some of the other players."

That includes Bulluck, Tennessee's first-round draft pick in 2000, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in December, snapping his consecutive starts streak at 127 games. Yet he still finished as the team's second-leading tackler. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker was the face of the franchise during its salary-cap-induced purge and rebuilding in 2005 and 2006.

This is Bulluck's first chance to test free agency, though Fisher repeatedly has said he would like the linebacker to finish his career in Tennessee. Both sides will use free agency in an uncapped year to determine Bulluck's value.

"I am confident that Keith will get back on the field," Fisher said. "He is working very, very hard, and is probably in the most grueling phase of his rehab right now, and he is pushing through it. But to be able to predict a return date is difficult as it relates to his injury."

How much someone else is willing to offer Vanden Bosch and Mawae will decide whether either veteran winds up back in Tennessee. Mawae likely would back up Amano or Leroy Harris. But the team isn't going to overpay just to keep Vanden Bosch or Mawae.

"If Kyle in fact ends up going out into the free-agent market, then one can assume we were quite a distance apart," Fisher said.

Other veterans hitting free agency are cornerbacks Nick Harper and Rod Hood, safety Kevin Kaesviharn and defensive end Jevon Kearse.

That is why the Titans have been talking to Brown's agent. They hadn't reached a new deal by Thursday, so the Titans tendered Brown a contract at a first-round level for $2.62 million to make it pricey for any other team to sign him.

The Titans also gave Scaife and linebacker Stephen Tulloch first-round tenders. But Scaife is due $4.9 million in 2010, 110 percent of his $4.46 million salary last season as the team's franchise player. Tulloch's tender is $2.52 million

Defensive end Dave Ball, running back LenDale White and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson received second-round tenders.

If another team signs one of the restricted free agents to an offer sheet, the Titans can match to keep the player or receive a draft pick as compensation.

The Titans kept Amato with a two-year deal. Amato has been their long snapper the past seven seasons.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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