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How the Tennessee Titans’ trade of A.J. Brown will impact Ryan Tannehill and Co. in 2022

Crissy Froyd

The 2022 NFL Draft hardly went as anyone expected it to. Early on in the event, the Tennessee Titans made the decision to trade away star wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles in a blockbuster deal. That was among the biggest surprises.

The Eagles received Brown while the Titans acquired the 18th and 101st overall picks from Philadelphia. With that No. 18 pick, the Tennessee picked up former Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks. While Burks had a successful career in Fayetteville and has flashed a great amount of upside, to be willing to part ways with a standout player baffled many.

Brown experienced a quick rise in Tennessee, putting together a pair of 1,000-plus yard seasons in his first two years there and came close to that number in Year 3 — catching 105 passes for 869 yards with five touchdowns.

It’s also worth noting that this came in a season in which there was more to be desired from veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who initially gave the impression that a change of scenery in Tennessee was all he needed to reach his ceiling before faltering and raising some questions.

Tannehill himself finished out 2021 with a 67.2% completion rate, 3,734 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That was his worst ratio since he came to Tennessee in 2019 from the Miami Dolphins.

Ryan Tannehill stats (2019-21): 67% completion, 10,295 yards, 76 TD, 27 INT, 102.0 rating

Tennessee Titans’ trade of A.J. Brown was about money

tennessee titans' a.j. brown, ryan tannehill
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

There were many comments from both the Titans and Browns since the trade to Philadelphia was finalized back in April. But the decision for Tennessee appeared to boil down to money. Brown knows his worth and had been after a lucrative long-term deal. Brown, 24, was entering the last year of his rookie contract and was scheduled to make a base salary of under $4 million in 2022.

Related: Tennessee Titans 2022 schedule and game-by-game predictions

That pales in comparison to the four-year, $100 million dollar contract he signed with the Eagles. Titans general manager Jon Robinson made financial references when asked about Brown and the team going their separate ways this offseason.

“At the end of the day, we have to make — I have to make — the hard decisions. And there’s a lot of things that impact those decisions. Certainly, the finances impact the decisions and trying to get value when we can. And that’s the decision we made today.”

Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson on A.J. Brown trade, via team’s official website

Brown recently boldly called himself the best wideout the Titans have ever had. He was on track to become just that, and indicated that he had no qualms about remaining in Nashville. But that the number offered to him just wasn’t enough for what he brings to the table.

“This wasn’t my fault,” he said in a report from ESPN’s Turron Davenport. “I wanted to stay but the deal they offered was a low offer.”

There’s no apparent public animosity between the two sides, as Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said he was comfortable with how the sequence of events played out.

“I love AJ personally, but I am very comfortable with how this went down and how Jon and I were able to navigate‚Ķ I try to support him and make decisions,” Vrabel said. “Unfortunately, we understand if we are going to be here a while, we are not going to be able to keep every single player that we draft and develop.”

Related: In-depth look at Tennessee Titans rookie QB Malik Willis

What Treylon Burks brings to the Tennessee Titans

tennessee titans rookie treylon burks
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Burks was a big piece of Arkansas’ resurgence in 2021, catching a career-best 66 receptions for 1,104 yards with 11 touchdowns.

What stands out about Burks is his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame, which is going to make him difficult for NFL defenders to tame. In addition to this, he’s a nuanced route-running talent and has an uncanny ability to find ways to get open even in difficult situations. Burks’ versatility enables the offense to use him in multiple different ways and will allow the Tennessee Titans to get creative on offense.

There are some questions that surround Burks’ game, though. For one, his contested catch ability is something he’ll have to further at the NFL level after some concerns were raised about it on tape. The combine didn’t help him skyrocket his draft stock in every way, perhaps dropping it a small bit after he recorded a 4.55 time on the 40-yard dash.

Related: Tennesssee Titans as NFL Playoff contenders?

The road ahead for the Tennessee Titans

tennessee titans qb ryan tannehill
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Titans are obviously left with a glaring question mark at wideout that will be an NFL storyline to follow for the entirety of the season.

Moving forward, the Titans wide receiver room features Burks as the headliner, Robert Woods, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cody Hollister, Reggie Roberson Jr., Kyle Philips, Mason Kinsey, Brandon Lewis, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Racey McMath, Josh Malone and Juwan Green.

Of those, Burks, Woods and Westbrook-Ikhine are projected to see the field the most. It’s no secret that quite literally none of these names have proven themselves as players who can be consistently positive contributors for the team, much less at the level Brown was at.

Of course, it’s still early and Burks could eventually hit his ceiling and become what the Titans seem to be betting on. There’s also a chance that Woods, who comes with experience with the Los Angeles Rams, could fulfill their needs. But the way things stand right now, there is no clear answer as to who will lead the Titans at receiver for years to come.

Looking at Burks in particular this offseason, Vrabel informed the media that he had been unavailable in minicamp without disclosing specific details. Burks was also sidelined for organized team activities with issues related to asthma.

This isn’t within Burks’ realm of personal control and more time needs to be allowed before jumping to conclusions, but it’s obvious that this isn’t boding well in terms of return on investment thus far.

The Titans have many times had to bet on the abilities of workhorse running back Derrick Henry throughout recent years. And if the situation at receiver doesn’t come together by the end of camp or early on in the season, this is something that could happen again as Tannehill enters a prove-it year without the best weapon he’s had in Tennessee.

However, there’s a chance the Titans won’t be able to put as much on Henry’s shoulders after he was forced to miss nine games in 2021 with a broken foot that required surgery.

It will be interesting to see where the team stands as they prepare to face Brown and the Eagles in a road contest on Dec. 4.