Albert Haynesworth, Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy were all integral parts of the 2007 Titans' defensive line that consistently harassed opposing signal-callers. The Titans finished with 40 sacks, which was the seventh highest sack total in the NFL last season.
Playing on one of the NFLs best defensive lines isnt the only thing that Haynesworth, Odom and LaBoy have in common. Each of the three defensive stalwarts put forth their best efforts at the most financially opportune time: their contract years.
Haynesworths has always had the potential to dominate opposing offensive linemen. However, up until last season, Haynesworth had failed to realize his enormous potential. Instead, inconsistency and highly publicized incidents such as his 2006 stomping of Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Andre Gurode highlighted a career that had failed to live up to its high expectations.
Last season, Haynesworth finally put it all together and became a force on the Titans defensive line. His presence was felt in a variety of ways: his relentless pass rush enabled him to accumulate six sacks and just his presence on the field clogged the lanes of opposing running backs that went nowhere when Albert was in the vicinity.
After accumulating only four and a half sacks in his first three seasons in the league, Antwan Odom emerged as a factor on the defensive line during his contract season. Odom accounted for eight sacks last season, including a two sack performance in the Titans playoff clinching win over the Colts in the final game of the season.
Travis LaBoy also enjoyed a solid campaign on the eve of his impending free agency. In thirteen games, LaBoy attained six sacks, rebounding from a disappointing 2006 campaign when he only amassed three and a half sacks.
As a result of the emergence of Haynesworth, Odom and LaBoy during their contract seasons, the Titans are now faced with the prospect of having to pay handsomely to retain their services.
Haynesworth has been rumored to be a likely candidate for the franchise tag, so barring highly unlikely circumstances, he should be back in a Titan uniform next season as well as the foreseeable future.
Unlike the Haynesworth situation, retaining Odom and LaBoy is anything but a foregone conclusion. Odom is already attracting a lot of attention as being one of the more highly sought after defensive ends on the free agent market. Re-signing LaBoy should be easier, but considering the teams other needs, there is also a possibility that he may be in another uniform next season.
Having a great performance during a contract season can be very rewarding for a players career, as Haynesworth, Odom and LaBoy are about to find out. Now it is up to the Titan management to determine if their contract seasons were a mirage, or a sign of bigger and better things to come.