PHILADELPHIA — A.J. Brown took to the podium Monday in his green-and-white suit, his 2-year-old daughter, Jersee, in his arms, and a big smile on his face.
But in many ways, the Eagles’ trade for their newest wide receiver last Thursday wasn’t as much about Brown as it was about quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Sure, Brown benefits from the riches of the four-year contract, worth as much as $100 million as the Eagles traded a first-round pick and a third-round pick to the Tennessee Titans to get him.
Hurts benefits just as much, if not more.
If anything, by trading for Hurts’ best friend, as Brown described their relationship, the Eagles showed how much they believe in Hurts as their quarterback going forward.
After the trade, Hurts FaceTimed with Brown and posted their reaction on social media.
“I’m going to go to bat for him every Sunday because he’s my friend,” Brown said. “It’s a different mentality you bring when you’re playing for somebody that’s important to you. It’s not about yourself anymore. You’re playing for someone else. So, I’m going to go above and beyond for this team and for him.”
For the entire offseason, the Eagles have insisted that Hurts is their quarterback, whether it was Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman or head coach Nick Sirianni.
They said their goal was to improve the team around Hurts, and not look for a new quarterback. Whether that was the case or not depends on whether the Eagles would have traded for Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson had they been willing to play for the Eagles.
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But neither wanted to come to Philadelphia, so the point was moot. At the same time, the Eagles thought enough of Hurts to not seek someone else like Jimmy Garappolo or Baker Mayfield.
Instead, they traded for Brown. You can’t do much worse statistically than Brown, who has 2,995 yards receiving in three seasons with the Titans.
And Brown has plenty of motivation to make sure it works, both for him and for Hurts.
As recently as 10 days ago, they worked out together while Hurts was attending the birthday party of Brown’s daughter. At the time, they had no idea they would be teammates.
And yes, Brown admitted when they last worked out together, they talked about playing together. At that time, Brown and the Titans had reached an impasse on a contract extension. Brown wanted a deal in line with the contracts signed by Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, averaging more than $20 million per year.
ESPN reported that Brown would have taken $22 million, but the Titans wouldn’t offer as much as $20 million.
“In the middle of the throwing session, Jalen says he’s going to ask them to trade for me,” Brown said. “We were just laughing, joking. We had no idea that this would happen.”
Let’s just say that the trade wouldn’t have happened if Brown didn’t believe in Hurts as a quarterback. Sure, Hurts completed just 61.3% of his passes, and critics will point to missing open receivers, or running before exhausting all of his passing options.
But Brown saw something different during their workouts.
“I see a guy who is talented, believes in himself, has a strong arm, he’s on time (with hs throws),” Brown said. “This isn’t coming from me. It’s from all the times we worked out together. I think the sky’s the limit.”
Sure, Brown was the biggest move to show the Eagles’ faith in Hurts. But it was hardly the only one. They drafted DeVonta Smith in the first round, 10th overall, last year. Smith and Hurts were teammates for two seasons at Alabama, and are obviously good friends.
And on Saturday, the Eagles drafted Grant Calcaterra in the sixth round. He and Hurts were teammates at Oklahoma in 2019 before Calcaterra left football for a year due to concussions.
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“I’m so excited to get back playing with Jalen,” Calcaterra said. “He was a great teammate at Oklahoma. We’re definitely good friends. I have a ton of respect for him as a player, off the field as well. Just at Oklahoma it was evident how he was a leader so fast, coming in as a transfer.”
Brown knew this back when he and Hurts were both being recruited out of high school. Brown said Hurts had committed to Alabama and was trying to get Brown to join him there.
They struck up a friendship then, even though Brown chose Mississippi. And they kept it going ever since, through workout sessions during the offseason to trips together to constant texts and calls.
“I think when you run into good people, I think you try to stay close to them,” Brown said. “He was one person that I considered a really good friend. He’s always looked out for me. And here we are.”
No one wants Hurts to succeed as the Eagles quarterback more than Brown. This was only the latest example that the Eagles feel this way as well.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.