After he ended the 2020 season on the injured reserve list, Jayon Brown decided he was not finished with the Tennessee Titans.
The free-agent inside linebacker agreed to a one-year, $5.25 million contract to play for Tennessee in 2021, according to reports Wednesday afternoon. He made the decision hours before the start of the signing period and despite interest from other clubs, according to those reports.
His return will be a welcome dose of continuity for a defense that is in the midst of a significant personnel overhaul and makes him the second of the Titans’ 18 unrestricted free agents to come back. Tight end Geoff Swaim agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million pact earlier in the week, and the team formally announced that deal Wednesday afternoon.
Already this offseason, the Titans have waived cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoreé Jackson as well as safety Kenny Vaccaro to help create space under the salary cap.
In short: Brown bet on himself.
A nickel linebacker who possesses the speed to run with tight ends, running backs and some wide receivers, Brown grew into a defensive mainstay in Tennessee over the past four seasons. In 2020, he was the Titans’ leading tackler before an elbow injury caused him to sit out the final six games. A recent report said he has returned to full health.
Brown’s best season thus far was 2019, when he played and started 14 games and set a career-high with 117 tackles. He also had one fumble recovery that he returned 47 yards for a touchdown in the Titans’ 42-21 win in Week 13 against the then Oakland Raiders.
Over the last three seasons, Brown has had four interceptions and three forced fumbles.
For his career in Tennessee, he has played in 56 games, starting 33 of them. He recorded 299 total tackles. And until his final year, he had remained relatively healthy and serviceable.
The Titans chose Brown in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of UCLA. He started as a situational defender and registered 49 total tackles with one and a half sacks as a rookie.
The market was there for Brown, and it was not expected to be this cheap. Spotrac estimated he could get a deal worth $11.1 million annually, roughly $45 million over four years.
Tennessee resigned him at a bargain price.
General manager Jon Robinson has placed a premium on retooling the defense this offseason. Sometimes, though, the best tools are the ones that were already in the toolbox.