NFL Execs Discuss Idea of Titans Trading Derrick Henry Instead of A.J. Brown

Adam WellsMay 6, 2022

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 22: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans warms up before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Nissan Stadium on January 22, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Bengals defeated the Titans 19-16.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Derrick Henry has been the face of the Tennessee Titans since taking over as the team's No. 1 running back in 2018.

As valuable as Henry has been, executives from other teams who spoke to The Athletic's Mike Sando wondered if it would have been better for Tennessee to trade him instead of A.J. Brown.

"Would you have been better off trading Derrick Henry, paying A.J. Brown and then drafting Breece Hall or the kid from Michigan State [Kenneth Walker III]?" one executive said. "You'd just transfer the money. Now the receiver gets $20-some million and we get rid of the back. Maybe they bring back Julio Jones, have Robert Woods, maybe draft another rookie and go that route."

Another executive wondered if the Titans could have gotten anything for Henry at this point in his career and said the Brown trade "could come down to what they really think about" the Pro Bowl wide receiver because they were "more willing to move him than a lot of people ever knew."

Tennessee's decision to trade Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2022 NFL draft for the 18th and 101st picks marked one of the biggest surprises of the offseason.

The Eagles also gave Brown a four-year, $100 million extension, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Mike Vrabel previously said on The Rich Eisen Show that Brown wouldn't be traded "as long as I'm the head coach."

Per ESPN's Turron Davenport, Brown "requested a trade and cut off all contact with the Titans" three weeks before the draft.

Brown told Davenport he "wanted to stay" with the Titans but that the deal they offered was worth $16 million per season with incentives that could push it to $20 million.

It's hard to argue that a running back, even one as good as Henry, is more valuable than an elite wide receiver in this era of football.

Brown had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in his first two years in 2019 and 2020. He also recorded 24 touchdown catches in 43 games over the past three years.

Henry led the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2019 and 2020. The 28-year-old was named Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 after rushing for 2,027 yards.

Last season was the first time an injury significantly cut into Henry's production. He missed the final nine games of the regular season with a fractured right foot.

Henry is the NFL's fifth-highest-paid running back in total value ($50 million) and average annual salary ($12.5 million). His dead cap hit this season is only $6 million, compared to a $15 million cap hit.

Those savings could have come in handy for a team that has just $5.2 million in cap space.

The Titans used the No. 18 pick to draft Brown's replacement, Treylon Burks. The Arkansas product drew comparisons to Brown going into the draft.

If Burks can replace Brown, Titans fans won't be as upset about the trade as they were when it happened.