The New England Patriots improved the roster a lot last week and, according to one owner, picked up a perfect player for the roster.
Running back Donald Brown might not make the same waves as acquiring tight end Martellus Bennett from the Chicago Bears or guard Jonathan Cooper from the Arizona Cardinals, or signing linebacker Shea McClellin or defensive end Chris Long off the street, or stealing wide receiver Chris Hogan from the grasp of the Buffalo Bills.
"He is such a perfect Patriots signing," Spanos told CSNNE's Tom Curran at the NFL Owner's Meetings. "I would bet anything he's going to be a productive player for them."
Brown was often lauded for his pass blocking ability and his football IQ with the Chargers.
"He's very smart in pass protection," Former Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich told the San Diego Union-Tribune during the 2015 season (Reich has since moved to become the Eagles offensive coordinator). "He sees it, he gets it. He truly is one of those guys who does a little of everything we ask him to do."
Brown signed a 3-year, $10.4 million contract with the Chargers prior to the 2014 season after five uneventful seasons as a Colts 1st round pick. He will be joining the Patriots for a contract valued at less than $1 million.
While Brown never lived up to his contract, at least it was justifiable. In 2014, he trailed Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead (while healthy) in the depth chart, and then rookie phenom Branden Oliver put together a great campaign.
In 2015, the Chargers drafted Melvin Gordon in the first round to replace Mathews and force-fed him the ball. As Spanos would tell Curran, "the opportunities just weren't there."
But while Brown wouldn't have much of an impact on the offensive side of the ball, he contributed on special teams- and that's his edge when it comes to making the Patriots.
The Patriots are going to play him everywhere. Brown probably won't be a starter with the Patriots, but he can play everywhere.
He ranked #2 for running backs in Football Outsider's DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) statistic behind the Colts terrible offensive line in 2013, and Pro Football Focus pegged him as the most elusive running back of 2013, averaging over 3.3 yards after initial contact. He has shown an ability to run the ball in the past and can unquestionably contribute in the passing game as both a blocker and a receiver.
Brown will be competing with players like James White and Brandon Bolden to earn a roster spot alongside Dion Lewis. White is a far better receiver, but was one of the worst running backs in the league last season (ranking 103rd out of 105 per numberFire) and doesn't play special teams. Bolden is a better special teams player, but Brown is better in every offensive facet.
"It just didn't work out here but I believe it will for him there," Spanos said. "Perfect player for them. And he's a guy who'll be the first guy in, does his work, does whatever he's asked and just keeps to himself. He's one of the players you really root for after they leave."
The Patriots likely aren't done addressing the holes at the position, but Brown could be an example of a great under-the-radar signing that makes a good impact on the team.