Titans’ Trade For CB L’Jarius Sneed Falls Through; League Interest Cooling

Two weeks ago, we went into some detail on the list of teams interested in trading for Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. The Titans were one of those teams, and it appears the team was all but set to trade for Kansas City’s top cornerback before one detail sank the deal. According to Nate Taylor of The Athletic, the inability of Tennessee to reach an agreement on a multi-year extension for Sneed kept the trade from going through.

The Chiefs avoided allowing Sneed to test unrestricted free agency by applying the franchise tag on him earlier this month. While every now and then, a franchise tag application can be the end of the story, keeping a key player under contract for one additional, high-paying year, often times, the tag is meant to buy time as the player continues to seek a long-term contract. With Sneed, that meant two options: seeking a long-term contract with Kansas City or getting traded to another team that may be more open to giving him the deal he desires.

The Chiefs are very familiar with the tag-and-trade maneuver. They have utilized it themselves to send Dee Ford to the 49ers while also taking advantage of it to bring Frank Clark from Seattle. Right now, it appears that Kansas City is unwilling to meet Sneed where he’s wanting to be in terms of a contract extension. As a result, they have essentially informed every team in the NFL that Sneed is available for a trade.

With the Chiefs hearing offers on Sneed, a number of teams reached out to express interest. We noted the Vikings, Colts, Titans, Patriots, Lions, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins as teams looking to acquire the 27-year-old. While all these teams showed initial interest, it was never clear how many had the intentions of trading for Sneed then extending him.

Sneed has made it clear that he is seeking a three- or four-year contract with an average annual value of at least $20MM, a salary that would make him the league’s third-highest-paid cornerback. While Tennessee was ready to part ways with whatever Kansas City wanted in exchange for Sneed, the Titans were apparently not ready to hand Sneed a new contract. Without a new contract, Sneed is set to play with a one-year salary of $19.8MM on the franchise tag, with every penny counting towards his team’s cap space. This provides incentive for the Chiefs or whatever team trades for him to use a new deal to lessen his salary cap impact.

The Titans apparently pivoted from the Sneed-trade to sign cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and use the extra money to sign wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The Lions traded instead for cornerback Carlton Davis. Additionally, Taylor informs that the Patriots, Vikings, and Falcons have ceased engagements with Kansas City concerning Sneed. So who else is left to vie for his services?

The Athletic’s Dianna Russini names Indianapolis as the most likely destination for Sneed at this time. The Chiefs will be wanting at least a second-round pick for Sneed, but if they can’t reach that value, they’re going to want two picks, with one of them being a third-rounder. She identifies the Colts‘ 46th, 82nd, and 117th overall picks as the ones that could entice Kansas City. On the Pat McAfee Show, ESPN’s Adam Schefter disputed Russini’s opinion, claiming that “the Colts and the Chiefs haven’t had any conversations” about a trade taking place. Stephen Holder of ESPN delved deeper claiming that, after contemplating the idea of a Sneed-trade, Indianapolis instead opted to re-sign its own players, like cornerback Kenny Moore.

As for the Chiefs, the relative inactivity around Sneed could allow them to lower Sneed’s asking price on a new deal. Sneed has expressed interest in remaining with the Chiefs multiple times. He doesn’t seem too eager to give a hometown discount, as he realizes that this is likely his best opportunity to maximize on his value, but he likes the idea of a Super Bowl three-peat and enjoyed his role as the team’s shadow corner.

Kansas City is in no rush to overpay, though. They are currently ranked 28th in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, and they are confident in their ability to identify cornerback talent through the draft. Without Sneed, the Chiefs will return Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams, and Jaylen Watson, three players they believe to be starting-caliber.

As the draft inches closer and closer, it’s starting to seem like one of two things will need to happen: either Kansas City is going to need to lower their asking price for Sneed in order to move him, or Sneed will need to lower his asking price for a new extension. It doesn’t sound like the Chiefs are interested in keeping Sneed on the roster in 2024, but someone will need to bend in order for him to move. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, for one, expects the team to move on from Sneed before the draft.

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