The New England Patriots entered free agency with a total of seventeen players about to hit the open market. Six of them have since opted to sign contracts elsewhere — among them one of the club’s biggest free agents both figuratively and literally: offensive tackle Trent Brown, who agreed to sign a record-breaking four-year, $66 million contract with the Oakland Raiders just nine minutes into the league’s legal tampering period.
Brown’s decision to join the Raiders has major implications not just on him but also on the two teams: New England will enter yet another offseason looking for a new player to protect Tom Brady’s blindside after Nate Solder was already lost during last year’s free agency. Brown, meanwhile, will be the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL, all while Oakland locked down its starting left tackle spot for the foreseeable future.
But while the move is supposed to bring stability to the Raiders’ front, investing in the 25-year-old is not universally applauded as a good move on the team’s part. Take advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, for example, which named Brown as one of the five most overrated free agency signings so far this year:
This isn’t just a case of saying it’s an overpay because Brown got the biggest contract of any tackle in NFL history. It’s saying that there’s not much to suggest Brown will ever be a top-10 tackle in the league. This past season, Brown allowed 35 pressures even with Tom Brady’s quick release. Even compared to the 26 other NFL tackles who took over 1,000 snaps, that figure ranks 18th. That’s certainly an upgrade for Oakland where Kolton Miller’s 65 pressures allowed were second worst, but it came at a premium.
The criticisms of signing Brown to a record-breaking deal are certainly valid: as a first-year left tackle — he played exclusively on the right side during his three-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers — he did have some issues early on during the season. Brown certainly got better as the year went along and by the playoffs looked solid as a pass protector, that still had some inconsistencies in his play particularly as a run blocker.
That being said, the Raiders are banking on Brown’s upside to prevail in a different environment and in front of a non-Tom Brady passer. Whether or not their investment pays off and the lineman indeed turns into a top-five player at his position remains to be seen. For $36.8 million in guarantees, however, he better do just that to justify the move — one that will benefit the Patriots, by the way, in that they will get an additional third-round compensatory pick during next year’s draft.