Bill Belichick is apparently not taking that lightly, and he is aggressively addressing the secondary through free agency.
In the wake of losing Aqib Talib to the Broncos, the Patriots signed All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis on Wednesday, but they weren't done there. Seattle Seahawks' Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner has also agreed to a three-year deal to join the Patriots, he told ESPN reporter Josina Anderson on Friday.
Filed to ESPN: CB Brandon Browner told me he's agreed to join the Patriots. "I'm taking a 3-year deal to play for New England."— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 14, 2014
Mike Garafolo of USA Today adds that the deal is worth $17 million.
Browner must serve a four-game suspension before he joins the team, but the signing is another major addition to the Patriots secondary.
The Patriots now have three cornerbacks with significant starting experience (Revis, Browner and Kyle Arrington) and two young cornerbacks with starting experience (15 starts for Alfonzo Dennard, seven for Logan Ryan as a rookie). That's more depth in the secondary than they've had in a very long time, possibly ever under Belichick.
Browner played cornerback for the Seahawks, using his length (6'4", long arms) and strength to get physical with receivers at the line, primarily lining up on the right boundary. In 2013, he allowed completions on 52.6 percent of throws into his coverage and a passer rating of just 78.8, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
His combination of size, athleticism and coverage skills creates some intrigue in the potential for positional versatility. The Patriots have been searching for a strong safety with that blend of traits who can cover deep, defend the run and line up in man coverage on tight ends and running backs.
|Brandon Browner||6'4"||221 lbs|
|Kam Chancellor||6'3"||232 lbs|
|Tavon Wilson||6'0"||215 lbs|
|Duron Harmon||6'0"||205 lbs|
They've used a number of resources on the strong safety position, drafting Tavon Wilson in the second round of the 2012 draft and Duron Harmon in the third round of the 2013 draft, and they signed Steve Gregory to a contract in the 2012 offseason. There's still time for Wilson and Harmon to come along, but if they don't, the Patriots have another player who could be an intriguing fit for that role.
Browner has some similar traits to Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, so the Patriots could deploy Browner in a similar role now that he is leaving the nest in Seattle. The Patriots already have a safety who can play cornerback in Devin McCourty, and now they have a cornerback who can play safety in Browner.
One concern: On a three-year deal, Browner will be 32 years old entering the final year of his deal.
In a best-case scenario, Browner gives the Patriots even more flexibility on the back end. If nothing else, though, Browner gives the Patriots another big, physical cornerback who can play tight man coverage and press receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Either way, the Patriots get much deeper and much more versatile in the secondary.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.