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Was letting Haynesworth hit the open market the Tennessee Titans’ plan all along?

Big Albert Haynesworth is probably a week or two away from getting a fat new contract. Unfortunately, due to his decision to test the lucrative waters of the open market, Al’s new deal may not be courtesy of the Tennessee Titans.

Instead of continuing to work towards the consummation of a new contract with his current employer, Haynesworth has opted to be wined and dined by representatives of anxious franchises in other cities that may be more than willing to break the bank for #92’s services.

Considering what’s happened over the course of the last offseason or so, I can’t say that I’m surprised by today’s events. The ball for Haynesworth potentially leaving via free agency was set in motion several months ago by the Titans.

To begin this little exercise, let’s flashback to last offseason. Despite possessing a ton of salary cap room, the Titans ignored the temptation of spending heavily in free agency. Instead, Mike Reinfeldt and Co. decided that locking up key in-house players for the long haul was the team’s biggest priority.

Around the time of the draft, LT Michael Roos was signed to a long-term deal. Later that offseason, the team’s committment to its key players was once again demonstrated as a result of extensions given to RT David Stewart and CB Cortland Finnegan.

As for #92, the only thing that the Titans were able to extend to Albert Haynesworth was the franchise tag. In July, Fat Albert signed a one-year tender that provided him with the chance to escape another year of the tag by reaching some very easily attainable incentives. Not surprisingly, Albert fulfilled the conditions of the deal by having perhaps his best season as a pro in 2008.

One could also point to the team’s decision to draft DE/DT Jason Jones as a possible indicator of Haynesworth’s (imminent?) departure. It was pretty clear from the beginning that the team thought highly of Jason’s future:

“He can come in and line up at end for us, he can move inside and be a rush tackle,” said Titans coach Jeff Fisher. “We feel like he has growth potential to move inside and end up as a very, very good defensive tackle prospect.”

Despite a slow start, Jones didn’t disappoint as a rookie. Filling in for an injured Haynesworth, Jason wreaked havoc on the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 3.5 sack performance in the Titans’ commanding victory over the eventual world champs.  

I could be wrong (actually, I hope I’m incorrect), but judging by today’s events, it appears as though the decision to allow Haynesworth to test the open market was made long ago.

Obviously, the re-signings of the likes of Roos, Stewart and Finnegan were considered bigger priorities than giving Haynesworth a fat-new deal. Those decisions alone indicated who the real core Tennessee Titans were. Also, the presence of an up-and-comer such as Jason Jones could have made it easier for the team to envision the suddenly, not-so-nightmarish scenario of life without Haynesworth.

If Al does leave Nashville, many will point to the most recent developments as the beginning of the end of his days in a Titan uniform. However, upon further look, it’s pretty obvious, at least to one observer, that the seeds for his potential departure were planted wayyy before today.