In late January, Jurrell Casey stood on one of the many fields at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex and spoke with excitement about the future of his Tennessee Titans.
Less than two months later, he was traded to the Denver Broncos.
Casey wasn't pleased by the way he was dealt, going from a key veteran on Tennessee's defense who was hopeful his team would be able to retain key players like Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, to a trade chip sent away to clear needed cap space. Casey didn't hold back in voicing his displeasure with the way he was dealt while appearing on Devin and Jason McCourty's "Double Coverage" podcast.
"The part that is so crazy is that you give so much to them," Casey said. "Especially when you come up on free agency and have opportunities to go somewhere else. Especially the way it was going when we (Casey and Jason McCourty) were there, 2-14, 3-13. Those were some rough times. When you're a loyal guy and you feel like things are going in the right direction and you're that centerpiece, you got no choice but to fight it through. My mindset was to stick it out and things would get better.
"For us to get to that point to get better and to be a main focus of that and then you just throw me away to the trash like I wasn't a main block of that. ... Coming off an injury the year before and playing the whole season for y'all. No complaints, I did everything you wanted me to do and you throw me like a piece of trash. At the end of the day, none of these businesses are loyal."
The lingering pain is evident in Casey's words. The fact the Titans -- a team with which Casey spent all of his nine-year career up until March -- dealt him just as the team appeared poised to be a consistent contender clearly still stings the 30-year-old.
When Casey spoke with this writer in January, he was entirely positive about the Titans' chances in the coming years. Financially, it wasn't entirely surprising to see him dealt away. Casey's contract called for a cap hit of just under $12 million in 2020, over $12 million in 2021 and nearly $14 million in 2022, his age-32 season. With no dead cap included after 2020, it seemed likely he'd be a cap casualty by way of trade or release in the near future.
It just didn't seem so likely that it would be in the immediate future. Broncos general manager John Elway called the deal -- which required just a seventh-round pick from the Broncos in exchange for the five-time Pro Bowler -- a "steal" in late March. Casey was clearly still a highly productive player, even in a season in which he was coming off an injury.
That's life when operating under a salary cap instituted to create parity. You can only keep so many good players for so long before making financially motivated decisions. Unfortunately for Casey, he had to learn this lesson first-hand.
"It was a blow to the heart because I would have thought that one of them would have hit me up," Casey said. "The part that hurt me the most was that I didn't get a call until like 30 seconds before the trade went down. For three or four days I had some moments where I had to tell the wife to give me a minute and I had a lot of tears come out of there."