With Julio Jones trade, Tennessee Titans are all-in for Super Bowl, and I'm here for it | Estes
Buckle up. They actually did it.
Hate to say I’m surprised, as much as this was telegraphed in recent days. But you have to be, don’t you? At least a little bit?
Yes, the Tennessee Titans really are all-in to go win themselves a Super Bowl in the next season or two, which, let’s be honest, isn’t something you could have said with certainty until Sunday.
In trading for future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones, the Titans did something both beautifully perfect for their roster and entirely out of character for how they typically operate.
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On the surface, it was a great deal, costing only a second-round and a fourth-round pick. But this was never about what the Titans would have to send to the Atlanta Falcons in return. It was about whether the Titans could afford it, given what it would cost them in salary cap space they don’t appear to have right this moment.
And usually, if the Titans can’t afford it, they haven’t done it.
That’s usually a good thing. After all, general manager Jon Robinson’s steadfast approach – let’s not call it frugal, but responsible and measured – is on a run of five consecutive winning seasons. He has built the Titans into a capable, solid NFL team.
But elite? They weren’t viewed that way until Sunday.
The Titans just pulled off the type of bold, expensive, blockbuster move that they’ve been sitting and watching other top NFL teams pull off the past couple of years to soar through a ceiling.
The Chiefs did it two years ago by adding Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu on defense.
The Buccaneers did it last year with Tom Brady, Antonio Brown and others.
And the Titans have now done it with Julio Jones.
Doesn’t guarantee anything, of course. It has to be said that adding an extremely expensive receiver in his early 30s with a history of injuries isn’t without significant risk.
I’d normally caution against such an investment, in fact, but Jones wasn’t a normal addition. His talent alone would justify the move for pretty much any NFL team. But when it comes to the Titans, he’s a spectacular fit. He’s a physical receiver for a physical offense and a humble star for a locker room that isn’t burdened by egos.
If you’re the Titans, wouldn’t you’d rather look back in three years and say this didn’t work rather than wondering what would have happened if you’d had the gumption to go get a player of Jones’ caliber when you had the chance to do it?
Tantalizing to envision what it’ll mean for the Titans’ offense, but in a big-picture sense, this was about more than just X's and O's on the field.
This time, it was the Titans pulling up a seat at the NFL’s big table and pushing chips into the center and saying, quite clearly, “Yeah, we’re ready to do this right now.” It revealed how the Titans view themselves at a pivotal point for a franchise.
In the past two seasons, two things have become clear in watching the Titans.
They have the talent to be a very good team.
But they’ve not been a team capable of winning a Super Bowl.
That line has been clear the past two Januarys, first on a frigid day in Kansas City and then at home against the Baltimore Ravens last season. In both instances, the Titans simply didn’t have enough offensive punch or defensive effectiveness to win a game in which Derrick Henry was contained.
And yet, since losing that AFC title game to the Chiefs, had the Titans gotten a lot better? Actions speak louder than words, and very little this team has done transaction-wise in the last 18 months has reflected a franchise that was truly going for it rather than just treading water.
The 2020 offseason was more about keeping Henry and Ryan Tannehill. The defense has gotten a much-needed upgrade so far in 2021 that came at the cost of a weaker receiving corps and the lack of a true No. 1 tight end, neither of which was addressed much in the draft.
You wonder whether the wheels were already turning then on this deal.
I’ve known the speculation that was out there. Made sense to me. Deep down, I’m not sure I really believed it until I saw it happen Sunday.
Finally, the Titans are shooting their shot.
And I’m here for it.
Reach Gentry Estes at email@example.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.