Tennessee Titans and the logistics behind an Antonio Brown trade
By Will Lomas
So, how possible is it that the Tennessee Titans could add Antonio Brown?
One of the most consistent and dominant receivers in the NFL over the last half decade is publicly asking for a trade and now the question is, should the Tennessee Titans be interested in Antonio Brown?
Well, I guess a better way to phrase that might be, “What Antonio Brown merit in a trade scenario given the other factors involved and does that make sense for the Tennessee Titans at this stage?”, but that doesn’t really roll of the tongue.
So, yea since everyone is talking about how they are dying to bring Antonio Brown in let’s take a look at what a deal like that would mean for the Titans on a macro scale.
What do the Pittsburgh Steelers get out of it?
It takes two teams to make a deal, and while everyone is focused on the public outcry for a trade does a move make sense for the Steelers? Well, the short answer is not really.
Many people point to Antonio Brown’s salary being off the books if he is moved, but they are wrong according to Justis Mosqueda. In fact, the Steelers would be giving away their All Pro receiver and only gaining $1 million in cap relief:
So, if cap relief isn’t a motivating factor, then what could sway them?
I will talk more about compensation for Brown a little later, but it is safe to say that the main reason they can do this without it devastating their roster is that Juju Smith-Schuster has developed into a star in his own right.
With that in mind, they don’t have to get something back that is necessarily as valuable as a WR1 because going forward they may have already started to think of Brown as the WR2 on that team. Will they be willing to take less than a king’s ransom for a disgruntled star player?
I would say yes. At this point with his off the field issue starting to get more and more public and after essentially abandoning the team publicly on IG yesterday, maybe they will be motivated enough to get him off the team and to finally give that locker room some piece of mind after this and the Le’veon Bell situations both came to a head.
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What are the pros and cons of making a move for Antonio Brown?
Let’s start with the pros since they are easy. Over the past 6 years, Brown has never had a season with less than 1,250 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, over that stretch he has averaged 1,590 yards which is about 100 yards per game.
Can you imagine that? For 6 years the Steelers had a guy that was almost guaranteed to have 100+ receiving yards by the end of the game and he led the league in receiving yards twice not including 2015 where he had 1,834 yards only to be beaten out by Julio Jones for the crown that year.
It also isn’t like there is a clear down tick in production either. He had more yards in 2018 than he did in 2016 when he was named an All Pro receiver.
So, the pros are that you are getting a receiver who has had All-Pro honors in four of the last five years and in the one season he didn’t get named and All Pro he happened to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns.
The cons may seem small in comparison, but we need to talk about them. The biggest is Brown’s age.
In 2019, Brown will end the season as a 31 year old receiver with two years left on his contract. The contract is also an issue as the team trading for him will pick up a cap hit averaging $20 million per season from 2019-2021.
That is a big pill to swallow for a team like the Tennessee Titans who are paying a franchise left tackle, two CBs over $10 million each, Jurrell Casey, and will need to pay Kevin Byard and Marcus Mariota soon enough.
Trading Brown would likely mean that one or more of those players would have to be moved or cut in the coming years.
The elephant in the room is his behavior in the locker room. Here is the thing, I have NO idea how Brown behaves in the locker room and neither do you. Is he any more of a diva than Big Ben, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Marcus Peters, Odell Beckham, or a hundred other athletes?
I don’t know and I can’t speak to whether or not it would affect the locker room, I mean it isn’t like the Steelers are falling apart aside from Bell and Brown right now so did it even effect his old team?
While he may be an issue in the locker room, at some point you have to trust the leaders in your locker room to take care of it. Guys like Taylor Lewan, Kevin Byard, Wesley Woodyard, Logan Ryan, Jurrell Casey, and others can’t let one guy change that culture.
What is the compensation going to be?
A few weeks ago I would have assumed that the bidding would have put the price tag somewhere around a 1st plus. Now, I am not so sure.
We don’t have to take a long walk down memory lane to figure out a good comparison for this deal.
Over the last four years few receivers have been as dominant as Brown (maybe three other names come to mind?) and over the last four years few cornerbacks have been as dominant as Marcus Peters.
Like Brown, Peters wanted out of his situation after disagreements with his coach and asked to be traded. Ultimately everyone thought that the deal would be for a top-40 pick. Given that Peters still had one year left on his ultra cheap rookie contract and that he had more interceptions than anyone in the NFL since he was drafted he was the perfect candidate for a big price tag.
However, the final deal ended up essentially being Marcus Peters for a 4th round pick and a future second round pick. Using the draft value chart, that ended up being worth roughly the 57th pick in the draft.
So, let’s say Peters and Brown both had locker room issues so that cancels out, WR and CB are pretty much the same positional value, the rookie contract and production for Peters and the production for Brown when you factor in his age and compensation probably wash out too.
All in all, I think Peters is a great comparison in terms of potential trade compensation for Antonio Brown.
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So what would a Tennessee Titans trade for Antonio Brown look like?
If I had to guess based on what Robinson has done in the past, a move like this isn’t completely out of the question. He was rumored to be close to a big deal at the trade deadline and when you put together the puzzle pieces it looks like he was offering a 2019 2nd round pick or a 2020 1st round pick for Amari Cooper before being outbid by the Dallas Cowboys.
If that is the case, the you would assume he would be willing to make a similar move now.
Using that same calculator that I linked too earlier, this is what a fair trade would look like between the Titans and Steelers using the Peters trade as a framework:
Tennessee Titans receive: WR Antonio Brown, 120th overall pick (4th round)
Pittsburgh Steelers receive: 51st overall pick (2nd round)
I have no idea whether or not a deal like this will be done from the Tennessee Titans end, but I know that this team was desperately looking for a difference maker on the outside and that Brown would be that for them.
As for compensation, the Steelers nearly get a top-50 selection for a player that is going to refuse to play for them next year and get him off the books long term so that they can lock up their young star receiver. The give up a 4th round pick, but the Steelers have plenty of depth and should be looking to find impact rookies who can start or rotate immediately. With three picks in the top 52 selections they should have a chance to move around or to grab three solid players.
In fact, doing a quick Fanspeak mock draft, this is what they would land in that haul:
1st round pick: Devin Bush LB, Michigan
2nd round pick: Chase Winovich EDGE, Michigan
2nd round pick: Amani Oruwariye CB, Penn State
The Steelers get two of the three best pieces of one of college football’s best defenses and they fit huge needs. They also add some talent at CB and now have very few holes as they set up to try to make another Super Bowl run.
Win-win for everyone. Now, let’s sit back and see what really happens.