In the moments after he learned last week’s trade to the Philadelphia Eagles had become official, former Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown said he experienced “bittersweet” emotions –sadness at what he left behind and excitement about what is to come.
But it’s what led to the trade that’s become of great interest for Titans fans.
Brown told ESPN after the trade that the move “wasn’t his fault,” adding that the Titans’ offer for a contract extension topped out at $16 million per season with incentives that would have driven the deal up to a $20 million average.
There are two sides to every story, though, and information that came to light later made it appear Brown had: A) asked to be traded; B) sought a contract worth well more than what he eventually got from the Eagles (which was four years at an average of $25 million); and C) had cut off communications with the Titans weeks before the move occurred.
Brown was asked about at least one of those pieces of information – whether or not he asked for a trade – at a press conference in Philadelphia on Monday.
He paused and laughed lightly before responding, steering clear of a direct answer.
“I’m (going to) try not to get into all that,” Brown said. “I’m not going to look backwards. I’m moving forward. Like I said, I’m excited.”
It had become fairly clear this offseason that Brown – who was eligible for an extension – had grown frustrated a new deal hadn’t been quickly settled. All around Brown, more experienced receivers seemed to be getting record-breaking deals. The list was extensive, but even included less accomplished receivers such as Christian Kirk, who signed a four-year, $72 million free-agent pact with Jacksonville.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Vrabel both said last week the team went to the extreme to get a deal done with Brown, making the trade only after realizing the gap between player and team was far too wide to bridge.
“I just wanted my work to be appreciated,” Brown said. “That’s pretty much it.
”I’m one of the top guys in the league, and I’m confident in how I play and what I bring to the table. I’m glad the Eagles believed in me.”
The Friendship Factor
It sounded as if Brown’s relationship with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts – which dates back to high school – played a strong role in facilitating the trade to Philly.
The two talk on a regular basis and posted a video of themselves working out together in recent weeks.
“He was coming to my daughter’s birthday party, and every time we get together, we always get a throwing session in – this is every time,” Brown said. “So it wasn’t on purpose, but we had a little fun with it, too, by posting a picture.
“In the middle of the throwing session, Jalen said he’s going to ask them to trade for me. We was just laughing and joking. We had no idea that this would happen.”
And how did the trade happen?
“You know, that’s a question I really can’t answer,” Brown said. “I think Jalen was kind of putting the bug in the ear, and it just kind of happened.”
Brown said he knew the deal might happen about 1 p.m. on Thursday, hours before it occurred.
“Just mixed emotions,” he said of that moment. “I went and worked out, actually worked out real hard, tried to get some stuff off my chest. It was just ups and downs.
“Like I said, it was bittersweet. I was a little sad the Titans (were) on board with the trade, but it’s a part of the business and that’s fine. But once everything got done and the trade went through and Jalen called me, he made it a lot easier. Like I said, it’s been bittersweet. But I’m also so excited to be a part of this great organization.”
Brown said he didn’t receive an explanation from the Titans after the deal went down.
A second-round pick in 2019, he led the Titans in receiving each of his first three years in the league and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020. Overall, he has 185 catches for 2,995 yards and 24 touchdowns overall. He is tied for 10th in the league in receiving touchdowns, 11th in yards per reception (16.2) and 17th in receiving yards over that span.
“They were just sorry it couldn’t work out,” Brown said. “It’s a business. Things happen and you move on. I appreciate the Titans for everything they did for me. People down there, I have no bad blood with the Titans. They believed in me, they drafted me. They got my career started.”