The New England Patriots spent the first few days of free agency watching the players they wanted to keep the most walk out the door. First they got mad, then they started getting even. On Thursday, New England added arguably the best cornerback in the league in Darrelle Revis, replacing Aqib Talib, who left on Tuesday for Denver. That made them even. However, Bill Belichick and company were not done yet.
Today, the Patriots took a step forward in becoming a better defense by signing former Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner signed a three-year contract worth $17 million, and will be starting opposite Revis next year for the Patriots. Unfortunately, the pair will not see the field together until New England’s fifth regular season game. Browner must serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. This is the second such suspension Browner has served in the last three years. Belichick does not usually allow players on his team who have issues with the NFL, but apparently he is willing to make an exception with Browner.
The road to the Pros is never easy. It has been particularly tough for Browner, who spent several years playing football in Canada before he was signed by Seattle in 2011. His time in Canada with the Calgary Stampeders was productive. He won the Grey Cup with them in 2008 and was an All-Star twice in his brief CFL career. In his three years as a Seahawk, Browner has had ten interceptions in 36 games. He has missed 12 games in that span due to suspension or injury. His best season came in 2011 when he started all 16 games. The Patriots are hoping they signed the Browner that played so well that year, not the guy who has been barely average for the last two. It is a huge risk, but if he can elevate his play back to that level, New England will be tough in the secondary come week five.
Hakeem Nicks has worn the color blue ever since he became a North Carolina Tar Heel. He played three years In college, coming out early in the 2009 draft and being selected by the Big Blue themselves, the New York Giants, at 29 overall. Nicks had his ups and his downs in New York. He was a big part of the Giants’ 2011 Super Bowl victory, as well as posting back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2010 and 2011. However, lately Nicks has seen his production start to slip. He did not record a single touchdown catch in 2013, although he did rack up almost 900 receiving yards. Nicks was not happy with his place on the Giants or with his contract, and he often expressed those feelings, albeit in a subtle matter.
Today, Nicks found a new home in Indianapolis. His one-year contract with the Colts will give him an opportunity to show that he can still be the wide receiver he was when he came in to the league. Plus, joining Indianapolis keeps him wearing his favorite color, blue. For the Colts, signing Nicks to a contract worth at most $5.5 million is a relatively safe bet. Nicks is only 26, and can be a real receiving threat when he is at the top of his game. Indianapolis has one of the young wide outs on the rise in TY Hilton, and Reggie Wayne is planning on coming back despite an ACL injury that forced him out of the 2013 season. If Nicks can gel with Andrew Luck and the rest of the offense, he can take some of the pressure off of Wayne’s recovery. With Nicks on the team, the aging Wayne should see more opportunities and could extend his career, by playing as a slot receiver, for a few more years.
Commentary by Chris Chisam