When the New England Patriots lost offensive tackle Trent Brown in free agency after the 2018 season, he became part of the compensatory draft picks calculation process: he was given a four-year, $66 million contract by the then-Oakland Raiders to become the highest paid offensive lineman in football at the time; Brown later went on to start 11 games for the Raiders during the 2019 season.
Together with edge defender Trey Flowers, he therefore netted the team a pair of third-round selections in the 2020: New England was awarded the 98th and 100th overall picks after losing Flowers and Brown.
Just two years after his departure, however, the latter is now back in New England. The Patriots re-acquired Brown via trade earlier this week, sending a fifth-rounder in the 2022 draft to the Raiders in return for the 27-year-old and a seventh-round pick that same year. Along the way, he also restructured his contract: instead of playing on the two years left on his original deal, he now only has one more season left at a maximum cost of $11 million.
That restructure does not just mean that Brown will have a manageable salary cap hit in 2021, but also that he will become a free agent after the season. However, it also means that he will not qualify for the compensatory formula next spring should he leave to sign elsewhere.
How come? Let’s meet Appendix V, Paragraph 8 of the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement signed into effect last March:
No UFA shall qualify as a CFA unless and until the maximum possible term of the player’s contract (“Maximum Possible Term”) has expired, and all other requirements have been satisfied. The Maximum Possible Term of any Player Contract shall be determined as of the date of such contract’s execution and shall include all years of the contract (including, without limitation, option years and voidable years).
With Brown reworking his contract as part of the trade to New England, that stipulation of the CBA is no longer satisfied: the maximum possible contract length has been reduced, which means that he will not qualify as a CFA (i.e. a Compensatory Free Agent) should he leave the Patriots in free agency after the 2021 season.
A lot can and obviously will happen between now and next March — it is entirely possible that Brown decides to re-sign with the Patriots after the fiasco that was his two-year stint with the Raiders — but we do know that this adds another level of intrigue to the trade that sent the big-bodied blocker back to New England. It shows that every such move has plenty of layers that need to be peeled off before getting a clear picture.
With this year’s free agency not even a week away, this needs to be kept in mind at all times.