With the arrival of football finally looming on the horizon, it's time to take another look at the veteran quarterback options available for the Tennessee Titans.
At different junctures of the offseason, we've analyzed some possibilities as the Titans conduct their search for a veteran signal-caller to hold down the fort until Jake Locker is ready to take over at the helm.
With a trade for the likes of Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton seemingly no longer viable options for a Titans' team searching for more of a caretaker than a long-term veteran QB solution, let's examine some of the more realistic players who could be on the team's radar once the frantic timeframe also known as NFL free agency gets underway.
Why Matt Hasselbeck to the Titans is anything but a done deal
On paper, Hasselbeck to the Titans seems like a logical fit. Familiarity with people in the Titans organization, check. Veteran signal-caller capable of winning games and serving as a mentor to the QB of the future, check.
Unfortunately, the 800 lb. gorrila in the room that could prevent the match made in heaven/Hasselbeck-to-the-Titans relationship from happening is Hasselbeck's desire to remain a viable starting quarterback in this league. As evidenced by his stellar postseason last year, Matt is still more than capable of being a solid starter for a playoff caliber team.
Personally, as much of a great fit that it appears to be on paper, reality suggests that Hasselbeck isn't willing to come to Nashville serve as a temporary band-aid until the inevitable onset of the Jake Locker era begins.
Doubtful about Donovan
Similar to Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb is also a guy who has visions of serving as some franchise's starting quarterback for the next few years. Sure, if necessary, he'll probably say with a straight face that he's willing to come in and compete for a starting position but deep down, he still holds the belief that he's got what it takes to be much more than a caretaker until the up-and-coming rookie is ready to hold down the fort.
One additional factor that could prevent McNabb from venturing to Nashville: He's not a free agent. While the Redskins will probably ultimately release McNabb to escape paying his contract, they're going to do whatever it takes to see if some franchise is willing to provide them with some level of draft compensation in return for Donnie Mac's services.
I don't see the Titans trading a draft pick in exchange for a guy who, in the best-case-scenario for the organization, will be holding the clipboard by the end of the season while Jake Locker gets his NFL feet wet.
So who's left?
Here's a few names that could emerge as the winner of the Titans' search for a caretaker at QB sweepstakes:
Marc Bulger- Has a ton of starting experience in this league and at this point in his career, may be more than willing to serve as part-time starter/mentor for Jake Locker.
Bruce Gradkowski- hasn't done that bad of a job as a spot-starter for some bad Raider/Tampa teams. A gritty competitor with solid leadership abilities, he's a bit injury prone but due to the short-term nature of his assignment if he comes to Nashville, his inability to stay healthy shouldn't be an issue.
Matt Moore- had a solid 2009 with the Panthers, only to take a step back in 2010. Has starting experience and is a realistic short-term vet QB option for the Titans.
Alex Smith, Tavaris Jackson and Matt Leinart are some other guys who could be looking for a change of scenery to jump-start their uneventful but still early NFL careers. The question surrounding each of them is their willingness to play the role of Locker's caddy.
My wildcard pick
There's one veteran QB that I've been saving for this space who could emerge as an intriguing/somewhat sentimental choice for the Titans.
Billy Volek is a name we all remember. Since leaving Nashville on bitter terms before the onset of the 2006 campaign, he's served as a more-than-adequate backup for Philip Rivers in San Diego.
At the age of 35, Billy has no illusions of being someone's answer at starting QB. However, he's capable of being a mentor/caretaker as a youngster awaits his on-the-job training as a starting NFL signal-caller.
He's already been mentioned by some as a potential fit for the Panthers as Cam Newton prepares to take over the reigns, so why can't Billy serve in the same capacity in Tennessee as Jake Locker is groomed to become this franchise's future QB?
Any thoughts in what direction the Titans will travel as they conduct their search for a caretaking/mentoring veteran signal-caller? As always, feel free to chime in with your opinions below.