By: Derek Havens
It’s hard to believe that a defense could change so much in such a short period of time.
The New England Patriots signed free agent cornerback, Brandon Browner, Friday evening. The deal is reportedly three-years, up to $17 million; terms of the guaranteed money have not yet been disclosed.
Less than 48 hours of signing cornerback, Darrelle Revis, New England added another strong veteran to the secondary. Browner released a statement on Twitter Friday night, saying he is honored to be part of a ‘legendary organization’.
With the addition of Browner, the Patriots secondary is the strongest it’s been in recent memory. Revis, Browner, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington are a deep group of quality cornerbacks that will give Bill Belichick and the Patriots a lot of ways to be creative in the upcoming year. Add safety Devin McCourty to roam the back-end and game on.
A few weeks ago fans and analysts talked about re-signing Aqib Talib, but not only did the Patriots upgrade with Revis, they gave the unit a whole new look with two veterans who can play strong, press man-coverage.
New England did play a more aggressive style of defense last year, while allowing their cornerbacks to match-up and play press coverage against opposing wide receivers. These signings, however, just make the team that much better in the same scheme.
Additionally, there’s a trickle down effect. Revis and Browner presumably slide into the top spots, while Dennard, Ryan and Arrington play in sub defensive packages. It’s just a deeper unit, which in today’s NFL, a team cannot have enough quality cornerbacks.
When Browner first came into the NFL, he joined the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2005. After four seasons in the Canadian Football League, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. He was named to the Pro Bowl that season.
Browner offers intriguing size — 6’4, 220 — something the Patriots desperately need in their secondary, and has shown during his time with the Seahawks he can play in a scheme that allows defenses to do what I previously mentioned. Playing with Richard Sherman, he’s use to lining up next to one of the best cornerbacks in the league — just like he would with Revis in New England.
Some people have even thrown out the possibility of Browner playing strong safety for the Patriots, given his tremendous size. It’s an interesting notion, one that Belichick may toy around with, but I would also argue it would take away from what he does best; playing man coverage on the outside. Still, could be an interesting wrinkle.
Browner does come with a catch, though.
The 29-year-old cornerback was suspended last season indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Browner and his agent, Peter Schaffer, reached an agreement — both with the league and the NFL Players Association — to conditionally reinstate him under certain guidelines.
First, he must to continue to comply with the NFL substance-abuse policy. He then will serve a four-game suspension to begin the 2014 season and will be penalized an additional four game checks after the suspension.
He will be allowed to participate in training camp and offseason activities before serving the suspension, so he has the ability to get into the defensive system.
Without a doubt there are some drawbacks, but after the suspension the Patriots will have a formidable secondary and an overall much different look than in past seasons.
There are still plenty of holes and needs for the team to fill this offseason, but New England has been off to a strong start in the new league year.
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