For weeks now, we’ve heard whispers, rumblings, rumors of sort that all gave the same message collectively as one.
The Titans weren’t going to trade A.J. Brown, and a new extension for the young star receiver was the likeliest conclusion to the ongoing saga. Due to that message, there wasn’t much concern surrounding Brown and the team’s ability to agree to a new deal.
Why? Because for year now, the Titans have established themselves as a smart organization that makes the right moves. They pay their own free agents accordingly, they draft well — aside from their recent dodgy first round draft history — and they make shrewd moves across the roster to maximize the roster’s output.
But last night, the Titans strayed away from their newfound reputation, and traded away the team’s best receiver since the days of Derrick Mason.
“We really appreciate what A.J. [Brown] has done for our football team, on the field and in the community” Jon Robinson said.
When these shocking deals go down, the first response is usually why. Why did the Titans decide to ship one of the best emerging receivers in football, and abandon the one piece of their project that has proven to be invaluable.
Well, it all boiled down to broken contract negotiations that apparently went nowhere. For months now, the Titans have been negotiating over a new deal with Brown and his camp. The new deal would easily make Brown one of the highest earners on the team, and would handsomely reward Brown for all the work he’s done ever since he was drafted in 2019.
But those negotiations broke down according to Jon Robinson, and in the end, the Titans seemingly had no choice but to recoup any compensation they could get for Brown while his market still felt hot.
“At the end of the day, I have to make the hard decisions” Robinson said, “There’s a lot of things that impact those decisions. Certainly the finances impact the decision, trying to get value when we can [impacts the decisions].”
Trying to gain any return value on a player as electric as Brown can be seen in good light in specific circumstances.
However, the circumstances surrounding this specific scenario didn’t warrant such a hasty, panic induced trade by Robinson and the Titans.
First off, what was the point in trading Brown now? We’ve heard time and time again from Robinson and the organization, about how dedicated they are towards developing and sustaining a football team built to win a championship.
Trading away Brown for scraps doesn’t aid that process. Not only because losing a player like Brown significantly kills the overall impact of your offense, but because it’s so hard to find consistent players at the position, that giving up and shipping one away almost feels like malpractice.
Just ask the Titans themselves, who paraded through receiver purgatory for years until they finally found a gem in Brown.
That’s why exploring as many options as possible was the only correct route Robinson could go down.
You can hold on to Brown and franchise tag him next off-season. You can continue to gauge his trade value later on in the off-season if negotiations continue to stall, therefore eliminating the possibility of hitting the big red emergency button and making all hell break loose. I mean I can go on and on.
But instead of doing any of those things, the Titans got antsy, and made a deal that could deaden the outlook of this football team.
A development that the Titans head coach Mike Vrabel surely didn’t want to entertain. Evidenced by the disappointment in his voice and the drained look on his face during last night’s press conference that addressed the high profile trade.
Second, why couldn’t the Titans pay Brown the deal Philadelphia gave him? 4 years, $100M, $57M guaranteed, and $25M AAV shouldn’t be something that turned the Titans off. It’s a fair deal based on Brown’s value and what he’s done throughout his short, yet accomplished career.
Why were the Titans so hesitant to shell out Brown’s desired amount? Is it because they want flexibility within the cap to pay out more extensions down the line? Are the Titans concerned with Brown’s medical history to the point where they felt uncomfortable giving Brown such a large sum of money? Or did they do the unthinkable, and value Brown way lower than his actual dollar value?
There are just too many questions left unanswered.
And until Robinson and the organization answer them, fans will be left in the dark wondering where it all went wrong, and why the conclusion reached last night truly had to be the final one.
Third, do the Titans realize the massive gamble they’re taking with Treylon Burks? The former Arkansas standout they drafted with the 18th pick, the same pick the team acquired when they traded Brown?
Media, fans, and scouts alike love to play the projection game. Whether it’s a highly touted prospect with eye popping measurements, or a quarterback prospect exciting plays on tape, the projection game has become such a league wide commodity, that potential has begun to seriously rival the idea of proven production.
Burks himself has proven to have quite the ceiling as a receiver. But he still hasn’t played a down yet in the NFL, and his skill set is still in need of some polishing.
For a team that has said multiple times that they’re positioned to win a title, depending on a project at an important position to successfully undergo a professional transformation in a mere few months feels absolutely crazy.
Which feels ironic in a sense, considering the Titans have been adamant on bringing rookies along slowly in recent years.
There’s no telling how severe the consequences will be for the Titans after making this move. Their stubbornness could come back to haunt them for the foreseeable future. Or it could prove to be a safe and effective method, depending on Burks’ development and how Brown performs after receiving his big pay day.
Either way, it’s going to be a queasy 2022 season for Jon Robinson. As his wheeling and dealing could effectively shut down the Titans’ window to win, and cause a seismic shift in the direction of a franchise that once had a decent sized amount of promise.