Mammoth. That’s the only word that spring to mind when describing the 6’8 359 pound Trenton Brown. The newly converted left tackle possesses a monstrous spider chart, ranking in the 97th percentile for height, 98th for weight, 96th for arm length, and 95th for hand size. Even by NFL standards Brown is large. That monstrous size presents opportunities but also danger. Danger Brown has not always been able to avoid. Though he was named second-team NJCAA after not allowing a sack all year, Brown would struggle to perform to his ceiling and played almost all of his senior year at guard instead of tackle. Despite flashing excellent athleticism for his size he struggled with consistent conditioning and his ethic was openly questioned by his coaching staff. This probably explains why Trenton slipped deep into the final round of the draft, nearly going undrafted.
Brown would do little his rookie season with the 49ers, though he did end with momentum, starting at right tackle for the final two games of the season. That offseason Trenton Brown would gain his first significant notoriety, gaining praise from freshly anointed Super Bowl MVP Von Miller after a practice between the 49ers and Broncos. Brown would make Von Miller look prescient as he started every following game for the 49ers until an injury forced him unto IR ten a the tail end of the 2017 season. For his performance in the 2017 season, Shanahan lauded him as the "best pass protecting tackle" he had ever seen. High praise in and of itself but especially so given six time pro bowler Joe Staley served across from Brown at left tackle.
This praise did not stop Shanahan from trading Trenton Brown to the Patriots for a 3rd round pick after spending the 9th overall pick on Mike McGlinchey.
Why Did the 49ers Trade Trenton Brown?
On paper this move appears dubious. Their left tackle Joe Staley will be 34 years old in 2018. Trading Trenton forces McGlinchey into the fire at right tackle and the 49ers will almost assuredly need to spend another high draft pick on a tackle within the next two years. In essence they used a 9th overall pick on a lateral move. So why did John Lynch make the deal? There are a few possible explanations and the correct answer is likely a combination of several. The most obvious explanation was that they knew they could not extend Brown after repeated attempts and sought to gain something before he left. Another explanation is they did not want to extend him. But why not? Despite performing well during the regular season, Brown showed up to camp out of shape before the 2017 season. Trenton has had a history of motivational issues throughout his entire football career. Is that really the type of person you want to give a large guaranteed contract to? Despite being praised as an elite pass protector Trenton Brown was a poor fit for Kyles zone blocking scheme. It could also have been a favor for the Patriots given their somewhat (some such as myself would argue significantly) generous trade of Jimmy Garoppolo. It could be that the 49ers are confident in a cheaper inhouse solution. Whatever the reason the trade was made.
Thank God it was
Why is Trenton Brown the best move of the offseason?
Dread it it. Run from it. The truth will still arrive. And the truth is Solder was never that good. I’m not saying he was terrible. Far from it. He could have the occasional stretch of dominant play and was consistently above average in run blocking. But anytime your franchise tackle is being beat like a drum by a 36 year old defensive end in the biggest game of the year you need to face the music. The left tackle is the blind side protector. If forced to choose you will always prefer to have your left tackle be a better pass protector than run blocker. Provided he can make the conversion from the right side to the left side, I believe Trenton Brown will be a better pass protector than Nate Solder. That makes him an upgrade in my eyes.
The fact that we were able to potentially upgrade our left tackle position after losing our franchise starter is why Trenton Brown is the best move of the offseason. I believe it when reports say the Patriots aggressively pursued Nate Solder in free agency. Poor tackle play can be devastating to a teams prospects. The player you know, however limited, is far superior to the risk of the unknown. But despite the importance of the position, the Patriots realized Nate Solder simply wasn’t worth the value of the contracts he was being offered. The fact that they were able to swing a trade to mitigate or even improve upon that loss is extremely impressive.
What are the concerns?
The concerns are twofold: motivation and run blocking. Trenton Brown’s consistent issues with motivation have been well documented. The reason I feel positive about his attitude this year is because money talks. Patriots mean playoffs. Playoffs mean limelight. Limelight means interested teams. Interested teams mean contracts. Contracts mean money. And money can do more to motivate a player than anything. That goes doubly so given Browns 7th round draft status. He can’t retire rich after five years. He needs to win a big contract now. There are no reports of Brown showing up to camp out of shape which speaks positively about his motivation versus last year. In regards to run blocking, I would be very surprised if Brown turns into a better run blocker than Solder on a per snap basis. But I trust Scar more than any position coach in the NFL (outside of whoever coaches the Steelers wide receivers) and the way he got after Brown in minicamp means Scar is well aware of his new left tackles deficiencies. Patriots also run power more than almost any other team in the NFL, which is a better fit for Brown. The combination of scheme and Scar should help Brown as a run blocker even if he is never great at it.
Wrapping it up
Trenton Brown is definitely a risk. There is a reason he was selected in the 7th round and the 49ers were willing to trade him. It’s no mean feat for a tackle to convert from the right side to the left. And even if he performs (especially if he preforms) Trenton Brown is probably just band aid who will leave after this year. But when your QB is the greatest passer of all time and is 41 ones years old, upgrading his blindside protector has to be the best move of the off season.