When you watch the Tennessee Titans play these days, NFL general managers probably feel like they are watching a Pawn Stars marathon. They’re hunting for deals on players who give them an edge in 2023 and beyond and the Titans are a chop shop these days. It’s a little disturbing how many pawn shop shows there are on television that are named after adult entertainment industry wordplay, but it tracks once you realize that in all three industries, someone is getting shafted.
The Titans have bounced between three quarterbacks in the first half of this season and don’t seem any closer to a permanent signal-caller. Their roster is limited by unimaginative decision-making from general manager Ran Carthon and his predecessor. As a result, the Titans are poised to be potential kingmakers as the Trade Deadline approaches next Tuesday. Unfortunately, as the 2023 cycle’s NFL pawn stars, it’ll come at their expense in the short term.
On Monday though, Howie Roseman dialed up the Titans pawn shop for another NFL antique transaction by acquiring 30-year-old safety Kevin Byard, who’d spent his entire career to date in Tennessee. Byard possesses the instincts to complement Big Play Darius Slay and James Bradberry and seal the top of Philly’s secondary. He also has 27 career interceptions on his resume, and should add to that behind one of the most stressful pass rushes in the NFL. Carthon’s trash is usually Roseman’s treasure.
Given Carthon’s rapport with the Eagles front office, the Titans feel like a second job to his primary role as Philadelphia’s assistant GM. I get it. It’s a tough economy. Plenty of successful people have a side gig to help make ends meet. The NFL is no exception.
In 2022, Roseman hustled AJ Brown out of Carthon’s Titans for Philly’s 18th pick in 2022 and a third-rounder on the eve of the draft. Then, Roseman signed Brown to a four-year, $100 million extension that was well below market value by the end of the season. All Brown did was lead the Eagles in receiving, emerge as the best deep threat in the league, and play a pivotal role in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl berth.
The Titans drafted Brown’s replacement Treylon Burke with the 18th pick and have been a below .500 team since. It’s too early to evaluate Tennessee’s haul, mostly because Burke has struggled to stay on the field and because the quarterbacks throwing to him have been subpar.
It’s surprising he didn’t just double-dip and abscond with Derrick Henry while he was shopping for a safety. Now is not the time to play it safe with Henry’s services available for a low price. For his part, Henry is being inexplicably passive about seeking an exit route after years of being the big fish in a small pond offense and marginal success in Tennessee. At 29, he’s in the final year of his deal and this iteration of the Titan is going belly up quicker than FTX and slashing sales prices on everyone but Mike Vrabel for now.
On Monday before the Byard trade was announced, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported that the Titans were busy fielding calls, but that the interest around Henry was scarce. Listen, I get the apprehension around a 29-year-old running back, but there’s no long-term commitment here. The Titans need better sales associates.
If you think the Eagles rugby offense is tough to stop now, just imagine how much better the NFL’s best rushing team would be with Henry. Have you ever seen a monster truck on a NASCAR oval? That’s what the Eagles would look like with Henry and fellow Alabama weight room alum.
There’s a misconception that the Baltimore Ravens aren’t as run-oriented as they were in the Greg Roman era. That’s not entirely true. Jackson is still Baltimore’s leading rusher but he’s airing it out more often as the passing attack has opened up, but there’s still a fit for Henry in the backfield to grind out yards after JK Dobbins suffered another season-ending injury in Week 1.
Their second-leading rusher Gus Edwards has been solid, but Henry could be an elixir for their red zone scoring woes and even at 29, Henry changes how defensive coordinators scheme. The Dolphins are built like a 7-on-7 flag football All-Star squad, but in January that speed in their backfield may not travel as well. Miami is the NFL’s top rushing team, but Raheem Mostert has been injury-prone thus far in his career. Meanwhile, physicality has been difficult for them to counter.
The Browns lost Nick Chubb to a grisly knee injury that required multiple surgeries. Head coach Kevin Stefanski made his bones reviving stagnant rushing attacks and as a playcaller, he’s always gotten the best out of ball carriers. There’s a more significant need in Buffalo, where the Bills would probably prefer to balance out their Josh Allen-centric offense. In the Not For Long, the present is what matters for contenders. The salary cap is a construct of our imaginations. Unless these teams are holding out for a big fish, Byard should be just the beginning of Tennessee’s fire sale.
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