With training camp already underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto the upcoming 2022 season.
The team currently has 86 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots build on their 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with veteran offensive tackle Trent Brown.
Name: Trent Brown
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 77
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6-foot-8, 360 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)
What is his experience? After a college career that saw him spend time at both Georgia Military College and at the University of Florida, Brown entered the NFL career as a seventh-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015. Despite his low-level draft status, he had a good career in San Francisco: over the next three seasons, Brown appeared in a combined 31 regular season and playoff contests for the team with 28 starts.
Despite serving as the 49ers’ starting right tackle between 2016 and 2017, however, the team decided to trade him to the Patriots during the 2018 draft. In New England, Brown switched to the left side of the line and promptly earned the starting job. Tom Brady’s blindside protector helped the team win a Super Bowl and along the way positioned himself for a major payday the following offseason: Brown signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Oakland Raiders to become the highest paid offensive lineman in football.
His tenure with the team was a disappointment, though. While he did show his talents as the Raiders’ right tackle, he also struggled to stay healthy: Brown played only 16 of a possible 32 games, prompting the team to trade him to New England during the 2021 offseason. Once back in a Patriots uniform, Brown reestablished himself as one of the better right tackles in the NFL. Through his two stints in New England plus his time in San Francisco and Oakland/Las Vegas, he appeared in a total of 76 NFL games.
What did his 2021 season look like? Brown’s time in Las Vegas came to an abrupt end last March. With two years still remaining on his contract, the team decided to ship him and a 2022 seventh-round draft pick to the Patriots in return for a fifth-round selection that same year. Along the way, he also restructured his contract: Brown had two years and $29 million left on the deal he originally signed with the Raiders in 2019; it was turned into a one-year, $9 million pact upon his return to New England.
Once back with his old team, Brown quickly assumed a starting position again. The Patriots used him as their top option at right tackle throughout the summer, and had him start their season opener versus the Miami Dolphins in that spot as well. However, his first game back was a short one: the veteran lineman hurt his calf just seven snaps in and was eventually forced to miss considerable time because of the issue.
After sitting out three games on the inactives list and five more on injured reserve, the big-bodied blocker made his return in Week 10 against the Cleveland Browns. While he only played two thirds of offensive snaps that day, his outlook was clear: once fully healthy again he would resume his starting spot on the right end of the Patriots’ O-line. The following week versus the Atlanta Falcons that is exactly what happened.
Brown never looked back and ended the season as the undisputed top option at right tackle. As such, he appeared in nine regular season games as well as New England’s playoff loss in Buffalo; he was on the field for a combined 553 out of 1,169 offensive snaps (47.3%) but rarely left the field when healthy. His performance — he surrendered just one sack all year and also looked good as a run blocker — justified this usage in his first and possibly only year back as a Patriot.
What is his projected role? Even though Brown served as the Patriots’ starting right tackle last season, it appears that he will play on the left side of the offensive line in 2021. Based on the early portion of training camp, New England will move its starting left tackle of the last three years, Isaiah Wynn, to the right side and insert Brown into the role he already played during his first tenure in New England in 2018. Despite his previous experience, only 19 of Brown’s 73 career starts have come at left tackle.
Does he have positional versatility? The Patriots will prefer keeping Brown at the same side of the offensive line throughout the 2022 season, but he does offer considerable experience playing on the right side of the line as well. As noted above, he has served as a right tackle for much of his career. On top of that, Brown also has played a handful of snaps at the in-line tight end position as a sixth blocker and was also used at guard during his time at Florida.
What is his special teams value? While Brown’s main contributions to the Patriots will come on the offensive side of the ball, he also brings some experience in the kicking game to the table. Last year, for example, New England used him as its right tackle on field goal and extra point protection units — a responsibility that might also switch sides heading into the 2022 season. Over the course of his career, Brown has played a total of 295 snaps on special teams. 44 of those came last season.
What is his salary cap situation? Brown took a swim in the free agency waters this offseason but as opposed to 2019 decided to stay put after all, returning to New England on a two-year, $13 million contract — an immensely team-friendly deal considering his projected role. His 2022 numbers are no different: Brown is carrying a salary cap number of only $4.54 million that consists of a $1.5 million salary, $1.25 million signing bonus proration, $794,118 in likely-to-be-earned roster bonuses and $1 million combined in weigh and workout bonuses.
How safe is his roster spot? The Patriots did not re-sign Brown earlier this offseason to part ways with him again shortly thereafter. As a result, he can be added to the list of roster locks alongside other core members of the team. That does not mean there are no questions, though, starting with: Where will he play? Realistically, it appears Brown is New England’s No. 1 left tackle at the moment. Another question includes whether or not he will make it through the season without missing significant time again.
One-sentence projection: Brown will earn the starting left tackle spot and appear in most if not all of New England’s games this year.