The Tennessee Titans played the old switcheroo with their backup quarterback on Monday, first releasing Matt Hasselbeck and then signing Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick's deal is reportedly for two years, terms undisclosed.
Hasselbeck was entering the final year of the three-year deal he signed to join the Titans as a free agent in 2011. Due $5.5 million and clearly the backup to Jake Locker, for better or worse, Hasselbeck's salary was clearly excessive, something he didn't even dispute. The only question was whether the Titans and he would come to terms on a proper contract restructure. Today's release shows that they could not. I indicated I thought his return was very likely in the quarterback positional analysis, due to his excellent relationship with Jake Locker, but it was not to be. Notwithstanding the current deep limitations in his game (outside the 3- and 5-step quick game, he's not very effective at all), he was the Titans' most effective quarterback in 2012. That's not saying much, but as a veteran content to be a backup, he'll be missed. Best of luck to Matt in his next destination, which appears to be Indianapolis.
The Titans moved to fill the gap quickly with Fitzpatrick. Reports of their interest in him first came out Sunday night, as the NFL meets in Arizona, where Fitzpatrick makes his offseason home. He becomes the third former Buffalo Bill to join the Titans this offseason, joining George Wilson and Andy Levitre. He served as the triggerman for Chan Gailey's offense the past three seasons, starting 45 of 46 games since being named the starter. With Gailey's firing this offseason, being a bad fit for Doug Marrone's offense and Buffalo's winds made Fitzpatrick's salary excessive and led to his release.
Stylistically, the 30-year-old Fitzpatrick is relatively similar to Hasselbeck. He throws pretty good short passes and is most effective and the 3- and 5-step quick game. He can't drive the ball downfield, and it was almost painful watching him throw vertically. He's not completely immobile, though I wouldn't call him particularly mobile either. He was very difficult to sack for the same reasons Hasselbeck was, because he got the ball out very quickly. The longer he holds the ball and the more he tries to improvise, the more mistakes he tends to make. When he's not making many mistakes, he's a very efficient quarterback. When he makes mistakes, things can get out of hand very very quickly.
I have to say I find Fitzpatrick a bit of an odd fit given what we think the Titans may want to do on offense. He's not well-suited if the Titans want to try to incorporate the quarterback in the run game. He can't doesn't throw the ball well more than 15 yards downfield. His experience in Gailey's spread sets made him a reasonable fit for what Chris Palmer tried to do, but I struggle to see him as well-suited. For more on Fitzpatrick, see Enemy Intelligence in 2011 and 2012.
As Jim Wyatt indicated in a radio hit on Monday, the Titans are not comfortable with Rusty Smith as the #2 quarterback. Ballpark Smith and Nathan Enderle at 50-50 for the third quarterback job as of right now, though of course that's based on very flimsy evidence and subject to change.
Even with today's events, the quarterback position for the Tennessee Titans in 2013 is all about Jake Locker.