With the first wave of free agency slowly starting to ebb, the New England Patriots still have a significant portion of players unaccounted for. In total, eight of their 18 free agents have yet to either re-sign with the Patriots or join another team.
Among those eight is Trent Brown. While the door is not closed on him returning to New England, the team’s starting right tackle is exploring his options before making a decision.
The Patriots allowing Brown to make it to the open market one year after re-acquiring him via trade from the Las Vegas Raiders is not without its risks. For example, the 28-year-old is currently in Seattle taking a visit with the Seahawks. Brown told CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson before that trip that New England was “still in the mix” and that he would be “open to weighing other contenders,” but things can change quickly this time of the year.
The Patriots, of course, have been down this road before. More than once in the past, they allowed their marquee talent to dip into the free agency pool while simultaneously keeping an open line of communication.
It appears the same is happening with Trent Brown’s representation led by agent Drew Rosenhaus.
In the past, this approach has worked out quite a few times for the Patriots. Safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, for example, entered free agency in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and were eventually retained by the Patriots. Center David Andrews traveled down that road just last year.
Andrews tested free agency and came close to signing with the Miami Dolphins, even reaching a point at which New England brought back Ted Karras on a one-year contract. In the end, however, the two sides were able to work things out; Andrews re-signed with the Patriots on a four-year, $19 million contract.
Six years earlier, McCourty received competitive offers from three clubs, including the Philadelphia Eagles. While he did came close to signing with the Eagles, the long-time team captain gave the Patriots an opportunity to come up with a counter-offer. New England did just that, preventing him from taking his talents elsewhere.
“Financially, they stepped up and hit all the numbers I wanted,” McCourty said at the time.
The Patriots faced a similar situation with Hightower in 2017 and took the same approach. His market developed more slowly than McCourty’s two years earlier, in part because the veteran defender took his time to visit three clubs vying for his services. Throughout the process, however, his camp remained in contact with the Patriots and he ultimately re-signed on a four-year, $35.5 million deal.
Now, Trent Brown is in a similar situation. While his status is slightly different than that of Andrews, McCourty or Hightower — all of them team captains who never wore another uniform — his qualities as a player are similar.
The Patriots seem willing to do what they have done oftentimes before, though: sit back and let things run its course, stepping forward when they feel the need to do so. Andrews, McCourty and Hightower have shown that this method of negotiation, while risky, can very much work out in New England’s favor.
Considering how many losses the team already suffered along its offensive line after watching Ted Karras leave and trading away Shaq Mason, it has to hope that the result is the same this time around.