Tennessee Won’t Be In the Race for Peyton Manning If He’s Released

Peyton Manning playing with the Titans in 2012? Don’t count on it.

The Titans new GM Ruston Webster says the team is in good hands with the quarterbacks they have.

Webster understands why some Volunteer fans want Peyton Manning to continue his NFL career in the state where he played in college. With Manning’s future in doubt due to neck surgery and a $28 million bonus due from the Colts in March, some fans put together a website and solicited money for billboards in Indianapolis imploring the quarterback to return.

But the Titans tried to downplay the Manning talk Tuesday in a conference call with season-ticket holders as Webster addressed the topic before taking questions. Webster called Manning a great player in the NFL and noted he was under contract with another team.

“We also feel like we’re in good hands,” Webster said.

The Titans signed Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year deal worth more than $20 million last July, and he led them to a 9-7 record. Webster said Hasselbeck brought the Titans through a tough time after losing top receiver Kenny Britt. Hasselbeck threw for 3,571 yards, the most by a Tennessee quarterback since 2002.

Jake Locker played well enough in relief to make the Titans happy they used the eighth pick overall in 2011 on the quarterback. Locker threw for four touchdowns with no interceptions and a 99.4 passer rating coming off the bench in relief of Hasselbeck during the season.

Coach Mike Munchak already has said Hasselbeck and Locker will compete to be the starter in 2012.

“He showed enough during the season to warrant a chance to win the job, and he’ll have a good shot to do that,” Webster said of Locker.

“Very talented player, he brings a lot of excitement to the game, and so we are as excited as you are about seeing him out there. It’ll be a good competition. It won’t just be Matt’s job or anything like that, and Matt knows that. The best man will win.”

Webster said the Titans are in good shape with about $35 million in salary cap space, but he intends to address the offensive line among other positions as they fix a running game ranked 31st in the NFL in 2011. The defensive line and linebacking corps also are due for upgrades after Tennessee had only 28 sacks in 2011.

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