The New England Patriots ended the 2018 season in the best possible way, by defeating the Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl 53. In order to stay on top of the NFL mountain, though, the organization will have to quickly turn the page to get itself into a position to create the best possible team for the 2019 season. And a big part of building such a team is mastering the upcoming free agency.
If judged by the list of free agents to be, New England’s front office will be busy over the next few weeks before the new league year officially is kicked off on March 13. Also over the next few weeks, we will take a look at those free agents-to-be to find out who may or may not get re-signed by the Patriots; and who should be a part of the 2019 squad. Today, we’ll continue the series with offensive tackle Trent Brown.
#77 OT Trent Brown
2019 opening day age: 26
2018 playing time: 19 games (16 regular season + 3 playoffs); 97.8% offensive snaps, 18.0% special teams snaps
2018 statistics: 3.5 sacks, 14 hits, 19 hurries given up
2018 cap number: $1.91 million
Trent Brown joined the Patriots via trade on the second day of the 2018 draft. The team dropped 48 spots — from the end of the third to the early fifth round — to acquire the San Francisco 49ers’ former starting right tackle. Brown was asked to switch positions from the right end of the line to the left in New England, but performed admirably and ultimately won the job previously held by long-time starting tackle Nate Solder.
All in all, the former seventh-round draft pick had a very good first season protecting Tom Brady’s blindside and blocking in the running game. Along the way, Brown proved to be a nimble yet powerful player that generally moved well despite his enormous 6’8, 380 lbs frame. Furthermore, he was a reliable option at Solder’s former spot: Brown started all 19 of New England’s games and also saw plenty of playing time in the kicking game en route to winning his first ever Super Bowl.
Why should he be re-signed? While Brown should not be confused with the NFL’s best left tackles, he is a solid tier-two option that still has plenty of youth and room to grow in year two in the Patriots’ system. On top of that, the main alternative to fill a possible vacancy is a question mark at the moment: Isaiah Wynn has yet to appear in a regular season game after the first-round draft pick missed his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury. Brown, on the other hand, is a rather proven commodity in New England.
Why should he be let go? The Patriots might be reluctant to meet Brown’s contractual demands considering that they invested the 23rd overall selection in last year’s draft in the aforementioned Wynn. If they feel that the youngster is both at a level to take over in his rehab and knowledge of the offense, New England might opt to go with the cheaper option instead of investing in Brown — especially with the team having other priority free agents.
Projection: One argument that speaks in the Patriots’ favor is Brown’s performance. Yes, he was very good and at times dominant but the question for other teams might be if this can be duplicated in a different environment: Brown — like every offensive lineman would — certainly benefitted from having a quarterback with one of the league’s quickest releases, and a position coach who is the best at what he does.
Both Tom Brady and Dante Scarnecchia may therefore have contributed a lot in making him the player he was in 2018 — and one that might be more valuable for the Patriots than for other teams. Ultimately, however, it only takes one team to fall for a free agent and it is not hard to envision clubs like the Arizona Cardinals or Houston Texans trump any potential offer New England would be willing to make.
The projection therefore looks as follows: Brown leaves the Patriots to sign a four-year contract with another team, averaging around $12.0 — $13.0 million per season. In turn, Isaiah Wynn will take over as New England’s new left tackle.