After spending one season with the New England Patriots, offensive tackle Trent Brown is looking to cash in on the open market. Brown initially entered the league as the San Francisco 49ers seventh-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and started 48 games since entering the league.
After only making one start at left tackle in the first four years of his career, Brown served as Tom Brady’s blindside protector in all 16 regular-season games in 2018. On the whole, Brown performed adequately, finishing the year as the 44th-ranked offensive tackle in football, per Pro Football Focus. While this ranking doesn’t sound great, PFF actually had Brown as a slightly above-average player.
At 6’-8”, 380 pounds, Trent Brown is an absolute monster of a man. At his best, he’s absolutely immovable in pass protection, with Kyle Shanahan calling him “the best pass protection tackle I’ve ever seen in my life.” Nobody is strong enough to beat Brown with a bull rush, and his quick feet and long arms allow him to play well against speedier defensive ends.
Additionally, Brown can play both tackle spots. Brown played right tackle at a high level early in his career, leading Von Miller to call Brown “the best right tackle in the NFL” back in 2016. With Marcus Cannon already installed at right tackle, Brown learned left tackle on the fly over the summer. While he wasn’t an All-Pro by any means, he performed admirably with the position change.
That said, Brown isn’t perfect. While his size plays to his advantage in the passing game, it leaves him vulnerable in the running game. Brown isn’t quite quick enough to block out linebackers in space and often finds himself in no-mans land. Additionally, Brown’s play dipped dramatically over the second half of the season. Brown never showed up on the injury report, so this could have been a case of fatigue. Given a week to rest before the playoffs, Brown returned to his above-average form. While he’s certainly a capable NFL starter, there are clear holes in his game limiting him from being a top-tier offensive lineman.
Brown probably played his way off the Patriots roster. With a relatively weak free agent class at tackle, Brown could find himself as the best player on the tackle market. New England has several departing free agents and will have 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn returning from injury. New England should make a play for his services, but he’s most likely off to another team.
Several suitors come to mind, but the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans both make a lot of sense as potential fits. For the first time in forever, the Browns finally have a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield that they need to protect. With longtime tackle Joe Thomas two years retired, Cleveland needs to find somebody to keep Mayfield upright for the foreseeable future. With over $80 million in projected cap space, the Browns should look to invest in a blindside protector.
Similarly, the Houston Texans need to fix their atrocious offensive line. Quarterback Deshaun Watson took an NFL-record 62 sacks in 2018, and that cannot happen again. Watson holds the fate of the entire franchise in his hands, and he simply cannot survive this type of punishment on a week-to-week basis. The Texans have over $66 million in cap space and should use that money to keep Brown on his feet.
Last Word on Trent Brown
He’s no superstar, but Trent Brown should have no trouble finding a new NFL home in 2019. The enormous offensive tackle is one of the best pass protectors in the league and can play both tackle positions at a high level. That said, he struggles as a run blocker and wore down near the end of the regular season. He wasn’t on an injury report, so this dip in play could be caused by fatigue, which is not a good thing.
The New England Patriots would probably like to bring back their left tackle, but they probably cannot afford to do so. With Isaiah Wynn returning to health, New England already has an in-house fill for the 2019 season.
With Brown likely to hit the market, look for the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns to be two of the biggest players for his services. Both teams have young franchise quarterbacks, subpar offensive lines, and ample cap space. These two teams won’t be the only ones in the running, but they should be considered the early favorites.
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