NASHVILLE — NFL free agency surprises us year in and year out. Wednesday, the Tennessee Titans shocked their fan base by trading away five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey.
As first reported by Mike Klis, general manager Jon Robinson shipped off the the team’s second-longest tenured player to the Denver Broncos for a 7th round draft pick. Casey’s 2019 was inconsistent but he still managed to lead Tennessee in quarterback pressures (30) and tied for second in sacks (5.) What the Titans lose is not only one of the best drafted players in the history of their franchise, but a person whose leadership shone through both on the football field and off of it.
So, now what?
What Happens Next
Trading Casey for spare parts sends a ripple effect through the entire NFL offseason. With a $13.4M cap hit in 2020, $13.9 in 2021 and $13.9 in 2022, per spotrac.com, it is difficult to look at this as anything more than a salary dump. A hallmark of Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots is to dispose of key players a year or two before their powers begin to decline precipitously and the emergence of 2019 first round pick Jeffery Simmons helps cushion the blow. The $5.45 million of his 2020 salary that would have become guaranteed on March 22 does not hurt the justification, either.
— Buck Reising (@BuckReising) January 15, 2020
Tennessee is clearing cap space.
Robinson needs to add to the defensive line group now that the only players under contract for next season are Da’Quan Jones, Simmons and undrafted player Matt Dickerson and Isaiah Mack. Jadeveon Clowney currently roams the unrestricted free agent market with a market value projection of $20M in average annual salary. The Titans can now afford him with upwards of $37M left in salary for this coming season.
Clowney would be a dream scenario for coach Mike Vrabel after their time together with the Houston Texans. As defensive coordinator, Vrabel got the best out of the former first overall draft pick on film in the way that Clowney was deployed all across the defensive front. It fits the versatility and understanding of scheme that Vrabel consistently says he values.
Trading Casey also opens up more flexibility to extend running back Derrick Henry before the July 15th deadline to do so after Tennessee applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to him. Least likely of these scenarios is the return of cornerback Logan Ryan, whose market value will be more than the Titans should be willing to pay. Ryan, though, was a higher priority to keep in the fold than recently departed right tackle Jack Conklin.
For The Boys?
Jurrell Casey on Week 1 @ Browns pic.twitter.com/AcAZEmhR2S
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 4, 2019
Trading Casey also has an immediate effect on the players currently still under contract for Tennessee. The message sent from front office to labor becomes “No Loyalty. All Business.”
Tagging Henry made the most sense economically but does nothing to boost morale. The player most responsible for carrying (pun intended) his team to their first AFC Title Game appearance in 17 years is being treated as nothing more than a commodity. Casey, one of the most loyal players to the franchise and to the community, serves as a reminder of that borderline livestock mentality.
Robinson and Vrabel are For The Titans far more than they are For The Boys.
Featured Image: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.