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Titans reportedly met with Ryan Fitzpatrick before release of Hasselbeck

By Matt Rybaltowski | CBSSports.com

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The Titans reportedly met with Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. (USATSI)

The Tennessee Titans reportedly met with former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday night hours before the release of three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeckon Monday.

With Hasselbeck's release the Titans pursuit of a backup for Jake Locker will likely intensify in the coming weeks. Locker, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, finished 2012, his first year as a starter as the AFC's 14th rated quarterback among starters in 2012. Reserve quarterback Rusty Smith , a sixth-round pick of the Titans in 2010, is entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract.

Fitzpatrick, 30, visited with the Titans over the weekend in Arizona, according to a report from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. The nine-year veteran also reportedly met with the Bengals on Sunday.

Fitzpatrick, who started 53 games with the Bills over the last four seasons, appears resigned to returning to a backup role. The former Harvard quarterback backed up Marc Bulger for two seasons in St. Louis before serving as Carson Palmer's backup in Cincinnati.

“I see myself being a very valuable guy in that regard,” Fitzpatrick told the Buffalo News upon his release last week. “For me, pride is never going to get in the way. But respect and pride can maybe go hand-in-hand. It's probably more respect than pride.”

Hasselbeck, a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, has been lauded by Titans coach Mike Munchak for helping further Locker's development over the past two seasons. The former Seahawks quarterback, however, will turn 38 in September and carried a cap hit of $7.5 million in 2013 if he remained on the Titans roster for the upcoming season. With Hasselbeck's release he will cost the Titans $1.5 million in dead money toward their 2013 salary cap, according to Spotrac.com.

The Titans have been one of the most active teams in the league during the opening week of free agency. With the signings of former Bills offensive guard Andy Levitre, 49ers tight end Delanie Walker Jets running back Shonn Greene, Lions defensive tackle Sammie Hill and Colts linebacker Moise Fokou, the Titans have about five to seven million left in cap space, general manager Ruston Webster said, via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.

Tennessee also has signed former Bills safety George Wilson, running back Darius Reynaud and tendered restricted free agent center Fernando Velasco in the offseason.

Fitzpatrick's best season of his professional career arguably came in 2011 when he threw for 3,832 yards and 24 touchdowns. In 2011, Hasselbeck's last season as a starter, he posted a quarterback rating of 82.4 and had 10 completions of 40 yards or more. Fitzpatrick finished that season with a 79.1 quarterback rating and with eight completions of at least 40 yards. Last season, Fitzpatrick finished with an 83.3 rating and had seven completions of at least 40 yards.

Fitzpatrick spent three seasons with the Bengals from 2006-08. In 2008, his final season in Cincinnati, he finished with eight touchdowns and 1,905 yards in 12 starts. With roughly $33 million under the salary cap, the Bengals have one of the most flexibility of any team in the league. Bruce Gradkowski,Andy Dalton's backup in 2012, signed a three-year deal with Pittsburgh last week.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, watch Pro Football 360 daily at 3 p.m. ET and NFL newsletter. You can also follow Matt Rybaltowski @mattrybaltowski.

 
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