Matt Hasselbeck to sign with Colts; Ryan Fitzpatrick joins Titans
After releasing veteran Matt Hasselbeck on Monday afternoon, the Titans wasted little time finding his replacement. Tennessee scooped up Ryan Fitzpatrick just a few hours after cutting Hasselbeck loose, agreeing to a two-year deal with the former Buffalo Bills starter.
Hasselbeck did not stay a free agent for long, either — he and the Indianapolis Colts agreed to a two-year deal that will put the 37-year-old Hasselbeck in place as Andrew Luck’s backup. The deal will be signed Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
While Hasselbeck has drifted rapidly closer to the end of his career, he still should serve as a very capable backup, both on and off the field, to Luck. That’s not to say Luck needs an extra set of eyes keeping tabs on him, but Hasselbeck’s experience should only help Luck continue to develop. Plus, Hasselbeck ought to be a decent fit in the Indianapolis offense, adding some peace of mind for the Colts.
Hasselbeck reportedly had several teams interested in his services (including a couple rumored spots, like Arizona, where he could have competed for the starting role). His decision to go with Indianapolis shows he no longer carries expectations to be the No. 1 guy.
Whether or not the same can be said for Fitzpatrick is a bit uncertain. Not that long ago, the Bills tabbed Fitzpatrick as their franchise QB, handing him a $62 million extension.
He bombed under the weight of that contract, finishing 2011 just 5-8 as a starter and posting a 6-10 record in 2012. Fitzpatrick also led the league in interceptions during that ’11 season with 23, then fired 16 more picks last year.
The Titans remain committed to Jake Locker, at least for now, despite shoulder problems plaguing Locker during his sophomore NFL season. The rehab from those injuries figure to keep Locker sidelined through at least part of the offseason, giving Fitzpatrick a chance to indoctrinate himself to the Titans’ offense by taking first-team reps.
However, Fitzpatrick then will serve as more of a safety net than a true competitor for Locker’s role. That’s a substantial fall from where the 30-year-old Fitzpatrick stood in the league’s QB pecking order only a couple years ago.
Fitzpatrick is seven years Hasselbeck’s junior, so he brings more upside to the table (though you could argue Fitzpatrick peaked a couple years back).
In the cases of both Fitzpatrick and Hasselbeck, the job description appears to be pretty clear: be ready in case the No. 1 guy goes down. Hasselbeck has earned the right to ease into duty like that; the situation likely feels much more disappointing for Fitzpatrick.
Grade for Hasselbeck signing: B. Tennessee wisely chose to give Locker the full-time gig last year, thus allowing him to fully start his maturation process as the starter. Hasselbeck is what he is at this point in his career — a player who’s seen it all and may be better as a locker-room presence than he is an actual QB.
Grade for Fitzpatrick signing: B-minus. The Titans may save some money in the Hasselbeck-for-Fitzpatrick swap, and there’s more of a chance Fitzpatrick finds a way to step up his game in the future. But it’s hard to feel like the Titans got any better here.