<
>

Donald Brown's blitz pickup, ball security could be valuable to Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots officially signed running back Donald Brown on Thursday, finalizing a one-year agreement that had been struck earlier in the week. The contract includes $250,000 in bonuses and guarantees.

Brown joins a running back group that includes Dion Lewis (recovering from a torn ACL), James White, Tyler Gaffney, Joey Iosefa and Brandon Bolden, and is likely to be supplemented at some point in the team-building process, whether through free agency, the draft or a trade.

Here are some things to know about Brown, who turns 29 on April 11:

Versatility and blitz pickup a big part of his resume. When the Chargers had to call on the 5-foot-10, 207-pound Brown to take on more responsibilities in 2015, offensive coordinator Frank Reich said, "He’s the right back for us because he’s very versatile. All of the stuff we’re doing in the passing game, protections; he’s a real pro at it. He’s very good at it." Brown also has just one career fumble, from his rookie season.

Exploded in junior season at UConn. Brown entered the NFL draft in 2009 after his junior season, when he was the nation's leading rusher (2,083 yards, 18 TDs) and the Big East Player of the Year. The Colts selected him No. 27 overall in the first round, making him the second rusher chosen that year (behind Knowshon Moreno at No. 12).

Contract history. Brown entered the NFL on a five-year, $10.4 million contract, then signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Chargers in the offseason prior to the 2014 season. He was released by San Diego after two years, spending last year as a backup to first-round draft choice Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver. In Indianapolis, it was clear how GM Ryan Grigson viewed him when the team traded a first-round pick for running back Trent Richardson in 2013.

A factor in the passing game. Brown had a career-high 29 receptions in his first season in San Diego in 2014, playing under head coach Mike McCoy, who was Josh McDaniels' offensive coordinator in Denver (2009-2010). So there is some crossover between his time under McCoy and what he'll be asked to do in New England.

From the press box. "Injuries and inconsistent play limited Brown’s production his first season in San Diego. He had to sit out three weeks due to a concussion and totaled just 223 rushing yards in 13 games, averaging a career-low 2.6 yards per carry. The following year, the Chargers drafted Gordon in the first round and Brown was relegated to the fourth running back on the roster behind Gordon, Woodhead and Oliver. He never complained. Even though he made $2.3 million in 2015, the Chargers kept him on the roster for most of the season. Brown was a healthy scratch in five games and released at one point early in the regular season. However, Brown was finally healthy and played well in his limited opportunities. He was a favorite of Philip Rivers because of his ability to pick up blitzes on passing downs and his cerebral approach to the game. Brown will be a perfect fit as a pass-catching back with someone like Tom Brady." -- Eric Williams, ESPN.com NFL Nation Chargers reporter.