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Friday, March 14, 2014
Rapid reaction on Browner signing

By Mike Reiss

Some thoughts on the Patriots' signing of free-agent cornerback Brandon Browner to a three-year, $17 million deal, as reported by ESPN's Josina Anderson:

Browner
Super-sized at cornerback position. If there has been one underlying theme to the Patriots' two signings, it's that they are going big at cornerback. Between Darrelle Revis (5-feet-11, 198 pounds) and Browner (6-4, 221), the team now has two physical, press corners. They are players who are built to last.

Adjusting with the times. When we think back to some of the cornerbacks the Patriots have targeted with early-round picks in the earlier years of Bill Belichick's tenure, they were smaller, quicker types. This was further expounded upon when Scott Pioli was serving as the team's vice president of player personnel and once noted the importance of reactive athleticism at the position, which explained why undersized players like 5-foot-9, 180-pound Terrence Wheatley (2008 second round) and 5-foot-10, 186-pound Darius Butler (2009 second round) were among the team's early-round picks. But the Patriots have been attempting to adjust with the times in recent years. With more and more bigger receivers in the NFL these days, the need for bigger corners has increased. The Browner signing reinforces that line of thinking.

Breaking down the rest of the depth chart. With Revis and Browner added to the depth chart, the team now is well-stocked at the position. Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington and Justin Green return from 2013, giving the team a promising outlook. With the Patriots playing 67 percent of their defensive snaps in sub defense last year, the third, fourth and sometimes fifth corners have added importance. Plus, Browner is suspended for the first four games of the regular season, which also must be factored into the thought process.

Answering the safety question. Some have asked if Browner might be a candidate to play safety, where the Patriots might be looking for reinforcements. The thought from here is that would eliminate one of his best assets -- the ability to get his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the rhythm of the passing game with physical play.

Dueling Peyton Manning. One final thought is that when the Patriots consider who they have to beat to make it through the AFC, the Denver Broncos are probably at the top of the list. We saw what Manning did to the injury-ravaged New England defense in the AFC Championship Game, and we wouldn't be surprised to learn that a small part of signing Browner was with this in mind. It's often hard to get to Manning with the pass rush (the Seahawks' performance in the Super Bowl is not easily duplicated), but another way to disrupt that lethal passing game is with phsyical play in the secondary. That's a big part of Browner's game.