G Steve Hutchinson - not Manning - visits Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Coaches made several trips to and from Tennessee's headquarters before NFL free agency began on Tuesday - with no sign of Peyton Manning.
Not yet anyway.
Coach Mike Munchak left shortly before 1 p.m. ET and returned about 45 minutes later with free agent guard Steve Hutchinson. Munchak left again a couple of hours later and returned with an unidentified passenger, but it definitely wasn't Manning.
So the day went in Nashville, lots of waiting and watching.
It's been that way since Titans owner Bud Adams made it known he wants the four-time NFL MVP on his team. The anticipation has mounted since the former Indianapolis and University of Tennessee quarterback agreed to meet with the Titans - though when and where has been a closely guarded secret.
Manning's day book has reportedly included meetings with the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. The Titans are his latest suitor.
An airplane with a Titans' emblem flew into Nashville on Tuesday afternoon. A flight plan to Raleigh-Durham for later Tuesday was apparently scraped and the plane was towed behind a hangar.
But there was other free agent business to deal with besides the Manning watch.
Munchak met with Hutchinson, who played with Minnesota last year. The five-time first-team All-Pro guard could boost the offense line for the Titans. Tennessee ranked 31st in rushing last year averaging 89.9 yards per game. Chris Johnson had a career-low 1,047 yards.
Munchak picked Hutchinson up at the airport with some personal service. The coach drove past reporters hoping for an update as Munchak pulled back into the parking lot.
Tennessee also made a few other moves. The Titans signed safety Jordan Babineaux and linebacker Patrick Bailey to multi-year contracts before free agency opened. Re-signing Babineaux means Tennessee returns both their starting safeties with the franchise tag slapped on Michael Griffin.
Guard Fernando Velasco and defensive end Malcolm Sheppard signed deals as exclusive rights free agents.
With most of the non-Manning business apparently completed, Munchak rolled out of the Titans facility at 7:50 p.m. wearing a sport coat and waved to reporters - but again, not stopping to talk.
Reporters staked out across the street from the Titans' facility all day weren't there for Hutchinson or any other free agent, and everyone knew it. People driving by slowed down and asked for updates on Manning.
One jogger asked, "They signing Peyton?'' as he ran past.
That's what everyone wants to know, and nobody with the Titans is talking.
Manning certainly has plenty of connections to Tennessee, the state where he starred at the University of Tennessee, and where his name remains a popular choice for children. His wife is from Memphis, and Manning already knows the Titans' facility a bit, having practiced against Tennessee a few years ago when the Colts came to town for some joint practices.
Munchak also was a teammate of Archie Manning in 1982 and briefly in 1983 with the then-Houston Oilers. Munchak just hired Dennis Polian - son of former Colts general manager Bill Polian - as his assistant.
The biggest key is Adams, the 89-year-old billionaire who wants back in the playoffs. His Titans have been only twice since 2004 with both trips in 2007 and 2008 lasting only one game each. When he wants a quarterback, he gets him whether it was having his Titans draft Vince Young in 2006 or signing Warren Moon away from the CFL.
"I want Manning,'' Adams told The Tennessean. "I'd love to see him in Titan blue after watching him so many years with the Colts. ... I want him. I am ready to do what it takes to get him aboard, and I think he'd be the guy to get us into the playoffs.''
The Titans already have veteran Matt Hasselbeck, signed to a three-year contract last July, and Jake Locker picked with the No. 8 overall selection in the 2011 draft. But Hasselbeck is due $5.5 million in salary this year after getting a chunk of his deal last season.
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