Brian Burns is the perfect trade target for the Tennessee Titans
By Will Lomas
During the 2019 NFL Draft, Tennessee Titans fans dreamed of Brian Burns falling to them in the first round.
They needed someone to rush the quarterback opposite Harold Landry who was coming off of a very promising rookie season where he was the best EDGE in a group that included Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.
In retrospect, the Titans couldn’t have hoped for a better draft and ended up with one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, Jeffery Simmons. That doesn’t mean that wanting Brian Burns was wrong, and he has been a bright spot for the Carolina Panthers over the last few years.
Why am I talking about this four years later? Great question. I’m sure everyone knows by now that the Carolina Panthers fired Matt Rhule and have basically decided to punt on the season.
Now, just because there is a coaching change in Carolina, it doesn’t mean that everyone on their roster is up for grabs. But the Panthers are a team that might be in a spot where trading someone like Brian Burns helps them more than holding on to him.
To understand why, we need to take a step back and look at what the Carolina Panthers are, and what they need for their rebuild.
Why a Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers trade makes perfect sense
Panthers GM Scott Fitterer has only been in charge of the franchise for a year and a half. While he probably wants to keep all of his young players, the key players that he was directly involved in drafting are:
-Terrace Marshall Jr.
That is it, and it is important to remember that those are the only “untouchables” on this roster.
Why? Because his legacy won’t have anything to do with the players that he didn’t draft. When times get tough over the next few years, the biggest feathers in his cap will be the players he drafted and not the players he inherited.
What makes that difficult is that he only has four draft picks in the 2023 NFL Draft and only two in the top 100 picks (traded a 3rd round pick to move up for Matt Corral).
That means that he desperately needs to recoup some draft picks if he is going to have any chance of getting “his guy” at quarterback in this class.
What makes life even more difficult, is that the Panthers are scheduled to have -$12 million in cap space next year. That is before draft picks and free agency.
So how do they dig themselves out of that hole?
Well, trading Brian Burns would take $16 million off of their books for 2023 and it would land them a top-64 draft pick as well. That is better than they could hope for if they decide to ride it out and hope for a compensatory pick down the line, and in all likelihood, they would have to overpay to keep him given where they will be in their rebuild.
Good EDGEs are hard to find, but nothing in sports is rarer than a winning quarterback and if Fitterer doesn’t take a swing in this talented class, he might as well start updating his resume now regardless of how good the pass rush looks.
Why would the Tennessee Titans be interested?
When you bring up the Tennessee Titans trading for Brian Burns, fans tend to misunderstand why this move makes so much sense.
At first, it looks like a reactionary move to replace Harold Landry who is out for the season with an ACL injury. Honestly, without the Harold Landry injury, I can confidently say that Burns wouldn’t be someone that the Titans were interested in paying market price for.
Remember, the team that trades for Burns will need to have a long-term deal in mind because you want to reduce that 2023 cap hit if you can and he will want some security after back-to-back 9 sack seasons.
But this move isn’t just about replacing Harold Landry in 2022, this move is about replacing Bud Dupree in 2023.
I have been on record saying that the pass rush is clearly better with Bud Dupree on the field and I think he has gotten some unfair criticism because of his inability to stay healthy following his ACL injury in 2020.
However, if you can replace an EDGE who will be 30 in 2023 with a Pro Bowl EDGE who will be 25 in 2023, then you make that move every time.
Financially, this move makes sense too. Let’s say that the Titans give Brian Burns the same contract that they gave Harold Landry (just for the sake of argument). $17.5 million AAV seems like a tough pill to swallow, but that is only because you are forgetting about the hidden factor in all of this, Rashad Weaver.
If the team believes that Harold Landry, Brian Burns, and Rashad Weaver can produce at a higher level than Harold Landry, Denico Autry, and Bud Dupree, then the numbers shift dramatically.
Cutting or trading Dupree and Autry would mean that they take $16.5 million off the books for 2023 while adding $17.5 million (and actually it will probably be less when you look at how the Titans structure their contracts).
Worst case, the Titans are adding a 25-year-old, Pro Bowl EDGE for $1 million more.
Best case, they are trading in two 30+ EDGEs (who are good players) for a 25-year-old, Pro Bowl EDGE and freeing up somewhere between $4-11 million in cap space.
Whether the Panthers want to do a pick swap for the Titans 1st round pick in exchange for their 2nd round pick, or get a 2nd round pick outright, both teams should make this deal.
It relieves the Panthers of a financial burden that they can’t afford while also giving them a premium pick to use as ammo to get a quarterback that they desperately need.
Short-term, the Tennessee Titans get an EDGE to help supplement their talented trio of linemen. Long-term, a defensive line with two Pro Bowl EDGEs and an All-Pro caliber DT and all of them would be 27 or younger.