Early Tuesday morning, news broke that threw every Tennessee Titans fan a little off balance. The Titans had traded their veteran defensive tackle with five Pro Bowl selections and the team’s defensive centerpiece, Jurrell Casey, to the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. This off-season move is reminiscent of another Tennessee professional sports team – and not in a good way…more on that later.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2020
Titans fans were left feeling as if they had been robbed. And on the surface it did seem like the Broncos just got away with one. After all, Jurrell Casey transformed from a 2011 third-round draft selection out of USC into a defensive stalwart for the Titans.
Casey deserves as much credit as anybody who has worn a Titans jersey this decade for changing the losing culture that he inherited upon his arrival. Casey stuck with the team through thick and thin and was one of the long bright spots in some of the darkest days in Titans history as a member of the 2014 and 2015 Tennessee teams that combined for a 5-27 record.
It is difficult for many fans to comprehend trading away a player of his caliber for such a minuscule immediate return.
Looking a little deeper into this transaction, it becomes easier to see what Titans general manager Jon Robinson might have been thinking. By keeping Casey on the roster, the 30-year-old would cost the Titans $13.4 million against the salary cap this season, including a hefty $5.45 million was guaranteed if he remained on the roster by March 22.
Jurrell Casey cap hits the next three years:
2020: $13.3 mill
2021: $13.8 mill
2022: $13.8 mill
But a 7th round pick feels insulting for a player of his caliber, importance, talent.
— Braden Gall (@BradenGall) March 18, 2020
By letting Casey go, the Titans put themselves into position to potentially swing for the fences on one of the more prolific free agents such as Jadeveon Clowney. Another consideration is that the money saved could go toward retaining a player like Logan Ryan while also shoring up another area of need with the leftover cash.
This is not the first time a professional sports franchise in Nashville has found themselves in this unique position. The Nashville Predators may have incidentally given sports fans in Tennessee a reference point in the P.K. Subban trade last summer.
Subban played a large part in the Predators’ Stanley Cup run in 2017 and made the NHL All-Star Game in three of his four years in Nashville. Like Casey, Subban also was a centerpiece, not only on the defensive end of the ice, but he was able to create opportunities on the offensive end as well.
When the Preds found themselves up against the salary cap, they looked towards the 29-year-old defenseman making $10 million as a player who could help the team in creating some financial wiggle room.
The New Jersey Devils would bite and became responsible for the entirety of Subban’s contract, but the haul the Preds received in return was underwhelming. Nashville would receive two players unlikely to crack the NHL roster along with two second-round draft picks. That is chump change considering the talent that the Predators parted way with.
The Preds had their sights set on acquiring one of the top forwards on the market in Matt Duchene so long as they could find a team willing to take on Subban’s heavy contract. The Predators would go on to throw nearly all of the money saved by shipping off Subban on Duchene in hopes to improve the team’s anemic power play unit.
The Titans pass rush is not operating at the level of complete incompetence and total embarrassment that the Predators power play was, but it was obvious that the unit could benefit from a big signing or two.
After spending $9.5 million on Vic Beasley Jr., who formerly served as an edge rush for the Atlanta Falcons, the Titans still have some money to work with. Will Robinson and the Titans pull the trigger on another expensive free agent on the defensive side of the ball? That answer will become clear in the next few days.
Laugh if you want, but if I’m the Titans and he’s there, I’m spending one of my 7th round picks on Rodrigo Blankenship.
— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) March 13, 2020
There is no doubt that the player taken with the Titans’ newly acquired seventh-round pick will shoulder a bit more pressure in making the roster with the loss of Casey
Titans fans will just have to hold out hope that the team takes a player who can eventually contribute in an environment that is becoming more and more familiar with success.
Feature image courtesy of Charles LeClaire of USA TODAY Sports