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February 18, 2015 at 3:19 PM

Jake Locker heading to free agency

As Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster took a podium Wednesday at the NFL Combine followed by coach Ken Whisenhunt, the topic was quarterbacks, quarterbacks and more quarterbacks.

Armed with the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Titans are assured of being able to take either of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston if they want.

“We are in a good position,’’ said Webster, who was the vice president of player personnel for the Seahawks from 2006-09 before taking over in Tennessee.

When not asked about Mariota and Winston, Webster and Whisenhunt got lots of questions about second-year quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who ascended to the starting role at mid-season in 2014 and where he fits into things.

“We like Zach Mettenberger as a player,’’ Webster said. “But they (Mariota and Winston) have unique skill sets … we don’t want to rule out anything right now’.’’

Mentioned only once in the 30 minutes the two spoke was Jake Locker, the former Ferndale High and University of Washington star who four years ago was the team’s quarterback of the future, taken No. 8 overall in 2011.

Locker, though, became the team’s quarterback of the past when Mettenberger was named as the starter in late October.

When Mettenberger hurt his shoulder in December, Locker got one more chance.

But in an unfortunately fitting end to an injury-plagued Tennessee tenure, Locker didn’t make it through a start against the Jets on Dec. 14, suffering a dislocation of his left shoulder for the third time in his career.

Locker will become a free agent on March 10, and while Webster said the team could bring him back, few expect that to happen.

“We’ll see,’’ Webster said when asked about Locker during his podium session. “He has a rehab situation with his shoulder so we’ll see where that goes.’’

In a separate interview later, Webster said the constant stream of injuries Locker suffered were the biggest obstacle in his four years with the Titans — Locker missed 19 of a potential 41 starts.

“I love Jake,’’ Webster said. “Love everything about him as a football player and a guy. He’s in that rehab mode right now. He’s a free agent. So I think it’s just kind of see where everything goes for him, what he wants to do, and then just from an injury standpoint his ability to get well.’’

The Titans went 9-14 in games Locker started as he threw 27 touchdowns against 22 interceptions with a passer rating of 79.0. While that might not seem impressive, the Titans were a combined 24-40 in Locker’s four years and 15-33 the last three.

The Titans could have picked up an option a year ago that would have kept him under contract for 2015. Instead, they declined the option, making him a free agent this year. He made $12.586 million via the rookie contract signed in 2011 after having decided to stay at Washington for a fifth season in 2010.

“I think the injuries made it tough for him,’’ Webster said. “But there are multiple things. One was the fact that he’s had three offensive coordinators and been through a lot of transition in Tennessee. There have been points in time when he’s really gotten it going and then he’s gotten hurt. But Jake can definitely play and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with us or somebody else.’’

That Locker stayed for one more season at UW means he missed out on the last year of big-money rookie deals. And that he now is headed to an uncertain future in free agency means he may never get the kind of dollars once anticipated. But if he has regrets, he’s never shown it, as his father, Scott, said in this column on Locker I wrote last December.

For now, about the only sure thing is that his future is anywhere but Tennessee.






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