NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Titans insist oft-injured Jake Locker remains their starting quarterback. They also protected themselves by drafting Zach Mettenberger of LSU, though they certainly took their time.
The Titans wrapped up their draft Saturday by trading with Washington to move up eight spots and picking Mettenberger at No. 178 overall in the sixth round.
“We feel good about Jake,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That doesn’t change our opinion on Jake. We are just trying to make our football team better.”
Mettenberger was their sixth and final pick with players split evenly between offense and defense. He joins left tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan, the No. 11 selection overall, and running back Bishop Sankey of Washington.
The Titans used their first three picks Saturday on defense: tackle DaQuan Jones of Penn State at No. 112 and defensive back Marqueston Huff of Wyoming at No. 122 in the fourth round and inside linebacker Avery Williamson of Kentucky at 151 overall in the fifth.
Drafting a quarterback is a move the Titans considered sooner. They liked Mettenberger after quarterbacks coach John McNulty worked him out just over a week ago, and general manager Ruston Webster was at Mettenberger’s pro day. With nine other quarterbacks already taken, the Titans made their move with other teams trying to trade up for Mettenberger.
“At that point, we felt like it was a low risk-high reward type of situation,” Whisenhunt said.
Locker has missed 14 of 32 starts since being named the team’s top quarterback, and he was out nine games last season as Tennessee went 7-9 costing Mike Munchak his coaching job. Whisenhunt and Webster repeatedly have endorsed Locker as their starting quarterback even as he heals from surgery on his right foot.
Yet the Titans did not pick up Locker’s fifth-year option to avoid being on the hook for approximately $14 million in 2015 in case of injury.
Locker was the eighth overall pick in 2011 and has for 3,974 yards with 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his 18 starts. He had eight TDs with four TDs in only seven games in 2013. Tennessee swapped Locker’s backups cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick for Charlie Whitehurst who is helping teach Whisenhunt’s offense now.
An eight-year veteran, Whitehurst hasn’t thrown a pass since 2011 when in Seattle. Tyler Wilson, signed in late December, also is on the roster.
Mettenberger gives the Titans a big, strong-armed quarterback at 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds. Mettenberger threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns with only eight interceptions last season. He tore his left ACL in the regular season finale in November and had surgery in January.
Asked about not being drafted until the sixth round, he called this a great opportunity. He declined to comment on a report he had a positive test at the combine.
“The jury is still out on me,” Mettenberger said. “I am going to do everything I can to prove everyone wrong that I am a great player and I am a great person. More importantly that I am a great person. I really want to show that to everyone.”
Mettenberger wound up being the biggest name drafted by the Titans, finally exciting fans on social media. They certainly need some buzz to lure fans back into the stands in Nashville not having had a winning season or a playoff berth in five years.
He started at Georgia where he redshirted as a freshman and was competing with Aaron Murray before being dismissed in spring 2010 after allegedly groping a woman in a bar during spring break. Mettenberger went to junior college before transferring to LSU in 2011, and he improved greatly in 2013 with former NFL coach Cam Cameron as his offensive coordinator.
Notes: The Titans plan to sign 14 undrafted free agents, including Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews. They also were talking to a few kickers. Only Maikon Bonani is on the roster after they cut veteran Rob Bironas in March.
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