A.J. Brown took all the mystery out of the trade that sent him from the Tennessee Titans to the Philadelphia Eagles last April.
Brown appeared on the Raw Room podcast Monday, chatting with former Titans teammate Daren Bates and former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Jalen Collins. On the podcast, Brown spent 20 minutes detailing every aspect of last April’s trade. Brown read the texts he received from Titans coach Mike Vrabel, outlined why he cut off communication with the team before the trade, explained just how instrumental Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was in the process and joked about how involved he was in helping the Eagles prepare for their 35-10 win over the Titans in December.
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Here are the takeaways from Brown’s in-depth account of why he’s no longer with the Tennessee Titans:
Mike Vrabel told Brown he would never be traded
Before Brown was traded, Vrabel told him that was never going to happen. And Brown has proof in writing. Brown read the texts he received from Vrabel aloud on the show.
“You OK with all this trade talk? It’s nonsense as far as I’m concerned,” Vrabel’s first text read.
“Nothing I’m used to,” Brown responded. “First time dealing with the trade talk and all the contract talk. I know a lot of things has to happen in the next couple months. I want to be here. I know it’s a business and anything can happen. It’s all in y’all’s hands at this point.”
“We aren’t trading you but I would tell you just from my personal experience as a player and as a coach that you need to prepare to have patience,” Vrabel replied. “Just keep doing everything you can do to prepare on the other stuff and it will take care of itself. I promise you. Let’s visit again tomorrow.”
The two met in person the next day. According to Brown, Vrabel said: “As long as I’m the head coach, you ain’t going nowhere.” The sentiment echoed what Vrabel told other media outlets about Brown’s trade prospects.
Brown admits initially he was hurt and believed Vrabel didn’t follow through on his promises or fight hard enough to keep him. After spending the last year reflecting, Brown thinks Vrabel followed through on his main promise to put Brown in a position to make enough money to take care of his family, he just wasn’t able to do that in Nashville.
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A.J. Brown never talked to Jon Robinson throughout trade process
Brown said he never heard directly from former Titans general manager Jon Robinson in the build-up to the trade. Brown talked to his agent, Tory Dandy, and was in constant communication with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was serving as a conduit between Brown and Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.
But Robinson wasn’t talking to Brown. And the Titans’ offer of $16 million a year plus incentives that can get him to $20 million annually wasn’t budging. So Dandy advised Brown to cut off all communication with the Titans, including Vrabel. Because of this, Brown didn’t talk to Vrabel or anyone involved with the Titans until after he found out the trade was official.
In December, two days after Brown’s Eagles shellacked the Titans in Philadelphia, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk fired Robinson.
“I never talked to J-Rob,” Brown said. “People are saying ‘You got the GM fired.’ Listen, I don’t know why he got fired. He got himself fired. I think it was a couple decisions before that, too. A couple players before that. A couple misses in the draft.”
A.J. Brown wasn’t on board with the trade until the very end
Brown said he heard the trade rumors and knew there were teams interested in him before the draft. The Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets were the teams he’d heard the most about, but Hurts convinced Roseman to make the moves necessary to acquire Brown.
Until the day before the draft, Brown was under the impression the Eagles weren’t interested and the Titans weren’t willing to trade him. It wasn’t until Dandy called Brown and told him the Titans were willing to agree to terms with the Eagles that everything hit him.
“I say ‘Bro, I want to be in Tennessee,’ ” Brown remembers telling Dandy. “He’s like ‘Bro, A.J., Tennessee’s not budging. They’re not moving. You told me to do a job. I did the job. It’s in front of you. You’d be a fool not to take this.’ I say ‘F*** it. Let’s do this.’ I get off the phone and I’m crying my eyes out. I’m hurt. I’m hurt. And there’s a part of what I just accomplished ain’t even set in. I’m more hurt than anything.”
Jalen Hurts was always part of the negotiations
Hurts and Brown have been friends since they were in college at Alabama and Ole Miss. They’d always joked about playing together someday, but never thought of it as a reality. But in the lead-up to the trade, Hurts was negotiating on Brown’s behalf.
“Jalen’s talking to Howie,” Brown said. “We’re just throwing numbers around. I think Howie’s number was 22. Then Jalen came back and told me and I told my agent and my agent told me to tell Jalen to tell Howie that ain’t enough. Then he was like ‘Stop talking to Jalen. Let me handle it.’ You don’t want to put your friend in the middle of stuff like that. Howie said ‘What’s enough, then?’ “
Brown ended up signing with the Eagles for $25 million annually but maintains he would’ve signed with the Titans for $22 million a year. He had a full, detailed plan for his next two contracts to finish his career in Tennessee, starting with a three-year deal making top-flight receiver money followed by a two-year deal to make money as a number two receiver before transitioning into the end of his career.
The Titans and Eagles played on Dec. 4. In the build-up to the game, Brown said he told his defensive teammates everything they needed to know about the Titans offense.
“I gave every detail,” Brown said. “I gave every detail. I gave it all. I gave it all. They don’t change nothing. They don’t change nothing. I talked to one of the defensive guys and they say ‘What does this mean? What does this mean?’ I say ‘Just give me the game film, I’ll tell you what all this means.’”
Brown said a lot of the Titans’ audible calls are simple enough that words with Ls in them mean plays are going left and words with Rs mean the play will go right. Bates acknowledged that most teams have oversimplified calls like that, but Brown says the Titans’ playbook was completely unchanged year over year.
The Eagles’ defense dominated the Titans’ offense, thanks in some part to Brown’s guidance. But as the game developed, Brown had one request for his teammates.
“The whole time watching the game I’m like, ‘Just don’t hurt my dawg Ryan,’” Brown said.
Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.