Jayon Brown

Linebacker Jayon Brown signed back with the Titans on a one-year deal on Wednesday.

As the Tennessee Titans work to improve their defense, especially on third downs and in rushing the passer, one key element that they could be hard pressed to replace is inside linebacker Jayon Brown.

Brown, a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 out of UCLA, is poised to become an unrestricted free agent. And though the Titans would more than likely want to keep him around, if he gets to the open market, there are no guarantees.

Brown has been a success story since being drafted by the Titans. Initially, his role was as an undersized nickel linebacker, who played only in sub-packages.

But, whether the Titans were ahead of the curve in their thinking as the NFL became more and more of a passing league, or Brown simply made the most of his opportunities, by his second season, he had become a starter and a three-down player for Tennessee with nine starts that season.

Since then, the only thing that has held Brown back have been injuries. He suffered a shoulder injury late in the 2019 season and was unable to contribute much to the Titans’ run to the AFC Championship Game.

Last season, Brown was back at his inside linebacker post, but suffered a season-ending elbow injury against Baltimore in November. The loss of Brown hurt the Titans already struggling defense, especially from a passing coverage standpoint.

A league source indicates that Brown would love to stay with the organization that drafted and groomed into a solid NFL player and is open to that. But if he gets to the open market, all bets are off as to whether the Titans can hang on to a key piece of the defensive puzzle, while trying to stay under the salary cap and improve the defensive unit as a whole.

Brown had 97 tackles with six sacks in 2018, followed that up with a career-high 105 tackles in 2019 in 14 games and had 76 total stops last season in a year shortened to 10 games due to the injury.