On Tuesday morning, the Tennessee Titans traded wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for fifth-year offensive lineman Dennis Kelly.
When the Titans drafted Green-Beckham at No. 40 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, the decision was a high-risk, high-return situation.
Although Green-Beckham showed incredible NFL potential — he was the nation’s top recruit out of high school, and totaled 87 receptions for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns during two years at Missouri —the star recruit was asked the same question by over twenty NFL teams prior to the draft: Can we trust you?
The concerns stemmed from Green-Beckham’s off-the-field conduct at Missouri, which included two marijuana-related arrests and first-degree burglary charges. After the third incident, the university dropped their star wide receiver, and Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma, his number one college coming out of high school.
Because of NCAA transfer rules Green-Beckham was unable to play his first year, the 2014 season, at Oklahoma. He instead practiced with the scout team and remained healthy on the bench. The following season, Green-Beckham declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and was selected in the second round by Tennessee.
Fast-forward to the Titans’ 2016 training camp. The risk taken on Green-Beckham appeared worthwhile.
As a rookie, the wideout made 32 receptions for 4 touchdowns and 549 receiving yards. The later category not only led Titans’ receivers in 2015 but also ranked fifth among all receivers from the 2015 draft class.
Green-Beckham also lost ten pounds during the offseason, when criticized for being out of shape. He reported to training camp at 228-pounds, the lightest he has been since coming to Tennessee.
Despite these instances of success, Green-Beckham failed to demonstrate the breathe of his potential consistently. He dropped 6% of his passes last season, struggled to master the Titans’ new offensive, and according to coach Mularkey, oscillated between “bad day, good day” during OTAs minicamp, and training camp.
Saturday night’s preseason game exemplifies Mularkey’s comment. Although Green-Beckham blocked Chargers’ cornerback Craig Mager to facilitate DeMarco Murray’s 71-yard touchdown run, he later misread a go route, which negated the opportunity for a deep pass.
This inconsistency promoted Robinson’s decision to exchange the potential of Green-Beckham for the dependability of Dennis Kelly.
Was the trade better for Tennessee or Philadelphia? Long-term, we won’t have an answer until years from now, and truly that answer is in Green-Beckham’s control since he, not Kelly, has superstar-or-bust potential. But in the short-term, the Titans certainly seem to benefit more than the Eagles.
Philadelphia selected Kelly in the fifth round of 2012 Draft. In 30 career games, the 6’8’’, 321-pound offensive lineman has fifteen starts: nine at right tackle, three at right guard, and three at left guard.
Kelly adds immediate versatility and depth to a Titans’ offensive line that has lost the versatility of Bryon Bell (season-ending ankle injury) and the depth of Josue Matias (season-ending patellar tendinitis). Bell was expected to start at left guard next season, while Matias was expected to back up Taylor Lewan at left tackle.
The Titans do not have such concerns at receiver. Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, and Kendall Wright are the current number 1’s on a roster that also includes veterans Harry Douglas and Andre Johnson and youngsters Justin Hunter, Tre McBride, and Andrew Truzilli.
In other words, the short-term value of Kelly at offensive line is greater than the short-term value of Green-Beckham at receiver.
“It really was just value based. Dennis was a guy that we though would help our football team, that would make us a more competitive position group up there,” Robinson said. “… So we’re looking forward to working with him. We’ll work him all along the [offensive line].”
This trade, the fifth made by the Titans in recent months, builds upon a philosophy that Robinson and Mularkey are using to reboot a franchise that has won five games during the past two seasons — bring in hard-working, physical, and dependable football players.
While there are no questions of Green-Beckham’s work ethic — he had no issues with being late or missing team meetings and practices — the consistency that Robinson and Mularkey sought from the second-year pro did not click. For Kelly it does.
“I like [Kelly’s] versatility,’’ Robinson said. “He has really good size. He’s versatile. He played a lot of positions. He embodies the traits we look for in an offensive lineman — smart, tough and dependable.”