NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans tagged defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth on Wednesday as their franchise player to keep him from leaving as a free agent.
The Titans had told Haynesworth's agent last week that they intended to tag him as a franchise player, and the NFL deadline was Thursday to designate a player. The move allows the team to continue discussing a long-term contract that must be reached by July 15.
Haynesworth is coming off his best season as a professional. He had a career-high six sacks in his sixth season in 2007 and was a key piece in a defense that went from last in yards allowed to fifth. He was an All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl as a starter for the first time in his career.
"This is a step in the process with Albert," general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "This designation gives us more time to work on a long-term contract with him. He was a dominant player for us this past season and one of the key components to our success on defense."
But other teams can talk to Haynesworth and sign him to an offer. The Titans either could match that offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation for losing the defensive tackle.
If no deal is reached by July 15, the team could only sign Haynesworth to a one-year deal. As the franchise player, his one-year contract would be worth $7.25 million.
Agent Chad Speck said Reinfeldt called him Wednesday and told him the Titans were sending in the paperwork to the league.
"I appreciated that phone call, and we are going to continue to work toward a long term deal that keeps Albert in Tennessee beyond 2008," Speck said in an e-mail.