Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 3/19/12
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The lure of returning to the state where he was a college football legend was not enough. And now the Tennessee Titans have to plan for the aftermath of missing out on Peyton Manning as well as number of other free agents, who could have provided the Titans with much needed help but signed elsewhere while the Titans pursued Manning. When owner Bud Adams stepped in and publicly announced his desire to sign Manning, the Titans most glaring need was that of a pass-rusher. The Titans 28 sacks last season ranked them second to last in that department in the NFL. In a statement, Adams expressed disappointment and said he thought Manning with the Titans would be a perfect fit. Then he addressed where the team needs to go from here. Now that we move forward, I want our fans to know that our expectations havent changed winning a championship is still the goal, the 89-year-old said. I like our quarterback situation moving forward and we will continue to build the team through free agency and the draft with that goal in mind. With the Titans slightly behind in free agency, they need to get moving in that area. On Thursday, the top pass rusher on the market, Mario Williams, signed with Buffalo. On Friday, defensive end John Abraham, 33, one of the top sacks leaders of his era, re-signed with Atlanta. On Saturday, as the key members of the Titans organization were watching Manning throw in Knoxville, the Titans lost their 25-year-old defensive lineman Jason Jones to Seattle and former Miami defensive end Kendall Langford to St. Louis, where former Titans coach Jeff Fisher is now running the show. Jones had three sacks last season and 15.5 in his first four seasons over 49 games with the Titans. Langford, 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, appears more of a run-stopper with 7.5 sacks in his four seasons. Could the Titans have landed Williams? If they were prepared to shower the same kind of money on him as they were on Manning, possibly. Pro Football Talk reported that Williams contract is basically a two-year, 40-million deal with a team option for the last four years. Mannings contract will likely put him in the same neighborhood on an annual basis and the Titans would have been able to afford either player as they entered free agency roughly 25 million under the cap. The Titans were reportedly interested in Abraham, but, tied up by the Manning situation, were unable to get in on him in a serious way before the Falcons brought him back for three more years. Should the Titans try to go the linebacker route to address their pass rush, Kamerion Wimbley could be an option for a defense that finished 16th overall last season and was overwhelmed in a 41-7 home loss to Houston that proved one of the critical games of the season. Wimbley totaled seven sacks last season with Oakland and has 42.5 for his career. New England defensive end Mark Anderson, 28, who had 10 sacks last season, will likely go to the top of the Titans list, but its a competitive situation. Anderson has visited the Titans, but he also visited Miami on Friday and reportedly has at least one other visit remaining. Under such circumstances, the Titans could win a bidding war, should they choose. At present, the Titans only have two defensive ends under contract and, picking 20th in the NFL Draft next month, they might get only the third-best pass-rushing prospect, according to some mock drafts. On the offensive side of the ball, the Titans addressed a need there, signing guard Steve Hutchinson on Thursday. Hutchinson has played 11 seasons and was said to be part of the effort to recruit Manning, as the two had formed a friendship at Pro-Bowls over the years. The plus side of that signing is that Hutchinson also helps to strengthen the line, which the Titans figured to do any way. One can imagine that the Titans wont have much to do in the way of mending fences with their two quarterbacks, Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, who are set to compete for the starting job. Hasselbeck, who has only played one season for the franchise, is a veteran and has been around long enough to know how the NFL works. (After all, he has much more reason to have hard feelings for his former team, Seattle, which let him go a few years after taking it to a Super Bowl.) Coming off a rookie season, Locker is too young and doesnt have enough standing to get bent out of shape. He also seems to have a level head on his shoulders. Adams wild Vol chase ended up not being the spectacular splash that he wanted. Certainly, he excited the fan base with his bold move and it lined up behind him. Having missed out, Titans fans can only hope that the pursuit of Manning will not prove too costly.
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