It seemed as if the Tennessee Titans were braced to lose linebacker Jayon Brown when free agency began.
Instead, the club re-signed him to a team-friendly three-year, $5.25 million deal. The final two years of the contract are void years to make the financials work.
Brown, whose market value hovered around $10 million annually, according to Spotrac, could have likely got more money elsewhere. However, a sense of loyalty to the franchise that drafted him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft is what kept the 6-foot linebacker in Nashville — a place he stated he hopes to stay long-term.
"I would love to play in Tennessee my whole career, and hopefully it goes that way," Brown said. "I can't tell the future, but Tennessee is a place I've grown to love, coming from southern California. I am so comfortable with the city, and our program, and I know what is expected out of me, being a leader, being a playmaker, being a great tackler.”
Brown’s star has been on the rise ever since he took over as a full-time starter in 2019. That year, he was third on the team with 117 tackles and had the third-best pass-rush grade (86.6) and fourth-best coverage grade (84.5) among all linebackers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Quarterbacks had a 69.4 passer rating when targeting Brown in 2019 — fifth-best among all linebackers — and he allowed zero touchdowns on 480 coverage snaps.
The 26-year-old is perceived as one of the top coverage linebackers in the league. Entering last season, Brown was the highest-graded linebacker when lining up against tight ends and running backs since 2018, according to Pro Football Focus.
Brown was PFF’s 19th-best linebacker last season, despite missing the final six games of the year. Playing in just 10 games, Brown finished in the top five on the Titans in tackles (76) and was on pace for a career-high 121 tackles. He led the team with two fumble recoveries and ranked second with eight pass breakups.
While David Long Jr. performed admirably in Tennessee’s final six games, Brown is the unquestioned heart of the middle of the Titans defense. His strong coverage skills combined with his ability to stop the run and execute blitz packages provide the Titans with much-needed versatility up the middle.
"Jayon has played a lot of good football for us," Robinson told Mike Keith during a recent Titans free agency recap show. "He's a productive player for us, good communicator at the linebacker position, making sure the coverage and the front matched up. Certainly, when he went out last season, we had some guys step up. But he's made a lot of plays and we missed him. To get him back — and his young, veteran presence, if you will, in the front seven — was key for us."
Added Brown: “I feel like ... I’ve been improving every year. And a really good season got cut short due to injury, but there’s still a lot more for me to gain out there as a player…I’m excited to reach new heights for this upcoming year. And I know I will.”
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