Titans release Hasselbeck, sign ex-Bills’ QB Fitzpatrick

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have switched backup quarterbacks all in the span of a few hours, going from veteran Matt Hasselbeck to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Monday night that the Titans have agreed to a two-year deal with Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced by Tennessee officials, who met with Fitzpatrick at the NFL meetings in Phoenix.

ESPN.com first reported the deal.

The move comes hours after Hasselbeck, 37, was released Monday because of his $5.5 million contract and a $7.5 million salary cap hit. Fitzpatrick, 30, was released the day free agency opened, a day before the team was due to pay him a $3 million bonus.

The Bills made the decision to cut Fitzpatrick after failing to get the quarterback to restructure the five years left on the six-year, $59 million contract he signed in October 2011.

The Titans already have Jake Locker as their starting quarterback. They spent the eighth selection overall in the 2011 draft on Locker and tabbed him the starter last August.

Fitzpatrick spent four seasons in Buffalo, and most of the past three as the Bills starter. He finished with a 20-33 record, and took part of the blame for the team’s three consecutive losing seasons.

He was mostly knocked for failing to shed his inconsistencies. Though Fitzpatrick finished with 80 touchdowns in 55 games with the Bills, he also threw 64 interceptions, including a career-worst 23 in 2011.

Fitzpatrick has proven to be a more than capable backup during his eight-year career. That’s exactly what the Titans now need for Locker, who will be going into his third season with former Buffalo guard Andy Levitre, signed last week, helping protect him.

Fitzpatrick will be the third Bills player to join the Titans with safety George Wilson signing his deal in late February.

Selected by St. Louis in the seventh round of the 2005 draft out of Harvard, Fitzpatrick spent two seasons with the Rams. He then signed with Cincinnati, where he got his first true shot at starting experience in 2008. Fitzpatrick went 4-6-1 as a starter with the Bengals, in taking over after Carson Palmer sustained a season-ending elbow injury.

Hasselbeck spent the past two seasons with Tennessee, leading the Titans to a 9-7 record and just missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker in 2011 in coach Mike Munchak’s debut season coming off the NFL lockout. Hasselbeck threw for 3,571 yards, the fourth-best passing season in the team’s history and the third highest of his career.

Even after Locker became the starter, Hasselbeck still started five straight games after Locker hurt his left shoulder and played in eight overall. He threw for 1,367 yards with seven touchdowns.

The 14-year veteran has 34,517 yards passing for his career with 201 touchdowns. Due to count $7.5 million against the salary cap made him too pricey to keep for a team still needing help on the defensive line and at linebacker.

General manager Ruston Webster thanked Hasselbeck for the past two years.

“He was an important part of the transition process,” Webster said. “He was a pro at every turn, and he provided an example to the rest of the team. I know that we are a better team for his being here and we wish him the best.”

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