The coldest part of this frigid (zero degrees tonight before midnight) first day of the NFL scouting combine here in Indianapolis, from a personal and Washingtonian perspective, was the clarity that the Titans are indeed moving on without their former face of the franchise, revered Washington Huskies star Jake Locker.
But from a purely Seahawks' perspective, it's a warming, reassuring tale.
Ruston Webster, the former Seahawks vice president of player personnel who is now Tennessee's general manager, said this morning how much the team still likes Zach Mettenberger, the 2014 rookie from LSU who took Locker's starting quarterback job in Week 8 this past season. Webster then spoke how he and his staff were going to spend this week and "the next couple months" getting to know Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the top two quarterbacks at this combine and in this draft. That's because Tennessee has the second overall pick on April 30.
"It's always been difficult to find that guy who can be out there 16 games and be effective for you," Webster said.
That was an obvious reference to Locker's injury-filled tenure with the Titans.
Webster was the Titans' vice president of player personnel in charge of its scouting for the 2011 draft. Four years ago Locker was one of the stars of this combine, fresh off UW's upset of Nebraska for its first bowl win in a decade. I still remember talking with Locker in San Diego immediately after that Holiday Bowl, so happy with what he saw as a perfect cap to his college career in his home state -- and vindication that he made the right choice in staying to play a senior season for the Huskies.
He felt further vindicated at staying through his senior season when Webster and the Titans selected Locker eighth overall in 2011 and signed him to a four-year contract worth $12,586,002, to be exact.
While that sounds like a load, consider that another top quarterback injured for most of his career so far, St. Louis' Sam Bradford, got a $76 million contract as a rookie from the Rams the year before Locker got drafted. The difference? The NFL's collective bargaining agreement before the 2011 draft in which league owners fixed the out-of-control rookie wage scale that made Bradford filthy rich and Locker merely wealthy.
Another case of what might have been for Locker.
His contract is now over. So is his time with Tennessee, it appears. His 2014 season ended on injured reserve and with surgery in December for a dislocated shoulder.
About five minutes into Webster's podium appearance here today inside a club lounge of Lucas Oil Stadium, someone asked the Titans GM about Locker's future.
"He's a free agent going through the rehab process right now with his shoulder," Webster said, flatly. "So we'll have to see where that goes ..."
The GM's voice trailed off as faintly as the dwindling remnants of Locker's time with the Titans.
While Tennessee mulls Mariota or Winston and "shoots straight" (to use Webster's words) with Mettenberger on what its plans at quarterback are, the Seahawks sit merrily with a franchise quarterback that has won more games than any other thrower ever in the first three years of a career. Russell Wilson -- with salaries of $390,000, $526,000 and $662,000 so far --is the first QB to start in two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. And the two-time defending NFC champions are welcoming contract talks with Wilson's agent on a new contract that could make him one of the league's richest passers. All this talk of Mariota or Winston or tying to find any quarterback of the future for much of the league is mere background noise for Seattle right now.
The current Seahawks indeed have it better than most ever do.
Meanwhile, the Titans try to rebuild a franchise while Locker tries to rebuild a shoulder and a career that appears stalled at age 26. He played in just 30 games over four seasons with the Titans, completing 57.5 percent of his passes for 4,967 yards, 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions for a franchise that finished 9-7 in Locker's rookie season -- when he played in five games and started none -- but has been 6-10, 7-9 and 2-14 in Locker's last three, shortened seasons.
Locker's best year was 2013, when he completed 60.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Alas, he was able to play in just seven of 16 games that season because of hip and Lisfranc foot injuries.
Locker and his wife, former UW softball player Lauren Greer, have two daughters born in 2013 and June 2014. Here's wishing them nothing but the best.