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Free Agent Spotlight: Linebacker, Jayon Brown

Taking a look at the effective and resilient Tennessee Titans’ linebacker Jayon Brown

Chicago Bears v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

It’s difficult to think about a world in which Lavonte David is not a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, it’s as close to football blasphemy as a Bucs fan can imagine. However, the reality of the situation is that David could very well leave as a free agent and that would leave a gaping hole next to Devin White as the other linebacker roaming after the ball or chasing down the quarterback.

For a Todd Bowles defense, someone like Jayon Brown could fill that void - albeit, with some sure resistance from the fan base given how much they love David.

Jayon Brown’s Career Thus Far

NFL: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A First-Team All-PAC-12 selection in 2016, Brown was a standout player for the UCLA Bruins in his four years with the team. He played in 49 games, amassing 220 tackles, three sacks, nine tackles for loss, fifteen passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and three interceptions.

Brown, however, slipped all the way to the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft where the Tennessee Titans selected him with the 155th overall pick. Once with Tennessee, Brown was a late bloomer. He didn’t start for the Titans until his second year where he started nine games. In the two years since, he’s started every game where he’s been healthy - fourteen in 2019 and ten in 2020.

In 2019 he suffered a groin injury that cost him one game and suffered a shoulder injury in 2020 causing him to miss the Wild Card game against the Patriots. In November, Brown endured a dislocated and fractured elbow against the Ravens, causing him to miss the final six games of the season.

All in all, Brown has played in 56 games for the Titans in four seasons - starting 23 of them - and has 330 tackles (216 solo), with seventeen tackles for loss, eighteen quarterback hits, 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, twenty-six passes defensed, and three interceptions.

Brown also brings speed to the defensive side of the ball, running a 4.56 40-yard dash and has put that speed on full display for the Titans since joining the team. That’s something that would fit rather well in Bowles’ system.

Why It Works

Brown is someone who can compliment White in the middle of the defense. Though he’s a little rough and needs some more development in pass coverage, he’s the kind of player that is always around the ball. He can shed blockers and get to the ball carrier with fantastic East-West closing speed.

With that skill-set and speed, Brown can come on linebacker blitzes as seamlessly as you could hope for and would help an already elite run defense.

Again, he doesn’t excel in pass coverage whether it’s a tight end or running back out of the backfield, but he’s shown flashes in the area. It’s likely that with the right coaching and scheme, it could become another area of strength for Brown.

But....

Brown is likely going to have a lot of suitors. Could he potentially come in and fill the shoes of a potential Hall of Famer and fan favorite for the Bucs? I mean, the thought of being on a team with a chance to win a championship in an enticing one but this is a guy that made fifth-round money for four years and is likely looking for a big pay day - which he may be in line to get.

Not to mention, he will know that he isn’t the Bucs’ first choice. The Bucs want to bring back Lavonte David and provide him the rare feat of playing beginning to end with one team. Brown will have quite a few teams gunning for him and being someone’s “back-up plan” no matter what the circumstances isn’t exactly starting things off on the right foot.

What’s The Cost?

In his rookie deal, Brown made $4.44-million dollars but certainly outplayed his first contract. According to Spotrac, Brown’s estimated market value is an average annual value of $11.1-million and they project he gets a four year deal in the realm of $44.8-million dollars.

This deal is estimated based on age and production with deals that have already occurred. They compare Brown to the likes of Eric Kendricks, Deion Jones, Zach Cunningham, and Myles Jack.

That’s a hefty price tag, but Brown is certainly worth it. However, you have to look at the big picture - the Buccaneers are not going to spend that kind of money on an outside free agent. If they’re dropping $11-million a year on a linebacker, it’s going to be the one they already have and don’t want to lose.

So, unless David makes it clear that he’s going to leave and the Bucs can dive head first in their pursuit of Brown, it seems he may be out of their price range.

What We Don’t Know

Aside from how close or far the Bucs and David are on a contract, we also don’t know what Brown is looking for. Does he want big time money? A chance to chase a championship? Does he even have any interest in hitting the market or does he love Nashville and is trying to get something done to stay?

Something else to monitor is how many free agents the Titans currently have set to test the market on March 15 when the open negotiating window opens - but are there any that they’re willing to hit with the franchise tag? If the tag is an option for Tennessee, you’d be hard pressed to find a more deserving candidate than Brown. The Titans could very well prevent him from getting to the market altogether.

Make The Decision

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Brown could be a really solid replacement if Lavonte walks out the door, but we all know that no one wants to see him leave. Put yourself in Jason Licht’s shoes for just a moment, though - your captain and star linebacker is walking off into free agency and you have to find a replacement. Is Jayon Brown your guy?

Let us know in the poll and the comments below what you think of the Titans’ fifth-round steal and if he would be someone worth pursuing.

Poll

When It Comes To Jayon Brown, What Would You Have The Buccaneers Do?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Sign Him, No Matter What
    (3 votes)
  • 22%
    Make An Offer, But Keep It Reasonable
    (21 votes)
  • 22%
    Invite Him For A Cup Of Coffee And See Where It Goes
    (21 votes)
  • 33%
    Call Him Up If They Have A Need After The Draft
    (32 votes)
  • 18%
    Don’t Need Him
    (18 votes)
95 votes total Vote Now