Trent Brown weighs options in free agency, including Patriots
Trent Brown had a terrific season as the starting left tackle for the Patriots, but his time in New England might already be over as free agency beckons.
When Nate Solder left the Patriots in March of last year, there was a good amount of nervous hand-wringing amongst fans throughout the New England area. After all, Solder had been Tom Brady’s blindside protector for six seasons, dating all the way back to 2011. The veteran out of the University of Colorado had been a stalwart force in both pass protection and in run-blocking; once upon a time, he’d even caught a touchdown pass in the AFC Championship Game for the team.
Understandably, Pats fans feared for the worst. Bill Belichick selected a promising guard out of Georgia, Isaiah Wynn, in last year’s draft, and many wondered if perhaps Wynn would slide over and learn to play tackle in order to fill the vacant spot. He’d had some experience doing it in college, so the expectation was that perhaps with a little coaching up, he’d be able to perform capably at the professional level as well.
Then Wynn tore his Achilles and saw his rookie season get cut short before it ever really got started, and all those hopeful plans and maneuverings seemed to be for naught – at least for the 2018 season.
Enter Trent Brown, the gentle giant from San Francisco. Brown had been largely overlooked and under-appreciated throughout his three-year tenure with the 49ers, missing some games due to injuries and only rotating in as a sub for others.
Bill Belichick must have seen something he liked in Brown, though, because at the end of April last year he traded the 95th selection in the draft for Brown and the 143rd selection.
Almost a full year later, and the move looks like yet another stroke of genius for Belichick, the master talent evaluator. Not only did Brown successfully make the switch from right tackle to left tackle, he also played in all 16 regular season games, as well as all three postseason games for the Patriots. ProFootballFocus rated him as one of their better tackles at the end of the season, and for his efforts, Brown earned himself a Super Bowl ring.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, this fairytale story might be coming to a rather abrupt and unseemly ending. Brown played out the final year of his rookie contract last season, earning just $1.9 million despite playing one of the most coveted positions in the NFL. Now with free agency just around the corner, he’s in line to take home a massive payday increase – and the Patriots might not have the financial flexibility to be the one to give it to him.
In an interview with ESPN, Brown detailed his thoughts as free agency rapidly approaches.
"“Ever since I got drafted in the seventh round (in 2015), I felt like that was definitely lower than expected and lower than I ever wanted to go,” Brown said in a podcast interview. “It all happens for a reason, but I felt disrespected by it, and I’ve been waiting for this time for a long time now. I’ve been putting in the work, busting my (butt). I took a week-and-a-half off (after the Super Bowl), and I’m already back to training, because I definitely don’t want people to feel like, ‘Oh, he’s going to get paid and then get lazy.’ No. I want to continue to win. I want to continue to get better, and I want to continue to chase my goals.”"
Brown surely realizes the new opportunity before him. No position along an offensive line is more valuable than left tackle; which is why it’s also the highest-paid position among offensive linemen. Brown knows the move this past season paid dividends beyond just helping him win a championship with the Patriots.
“That’s definitely something I would love,” Brown responded when asked his interest in a potential return to New England. “We’re going to cross that bridge when we get there.”
For what it’s worth, Solder signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants, $35 million of which was guaranteed. It’s not crazy to think Brown could command a similar deal on the open market – or an even more lucrative one. If that happens, it would be almost impossible for the Patriots to match an offer of that magnitude, considering how much less cap space they have to play with this offseason compared to previous years.