Tuesday, April 3, 2012
49ers update: Curious case of Jason Brown
By Mike Sando
Jason Brown should be reaching his prime years as an NFL offensive lineman.
Instead, he has reached a career crossroads.
Brown, scheduled to visit San Francisco, would give the 49ers veteran depth and a potential starting candidate, most likely at right guard.
Brown owns 90 starts for St. Louis and Baltimore over the last six seasons, but in the past six months, Brown has been benched by the Rams' previous leadership, released by its new leadership and left unsigned through three weeks of free agency.
What's wrong with this picture?
The Rams made signing Brown a top priority when Steve Spagnuolo was taking over as head coach in early 2009. They called him minutes into the free-agent signing period and signed him to a deal averaging $7 million per season with an $11 million signing bonus. Brown started the next 40 games at center, but with the 2011 season having slipped away, the Rams benched him following a Week 9 overtime defeat at Arizona.
Brown finished the 2011 season as a starter at guard, but only because injuries forced the Rams to adjust their lineup. The Rams subsequently released Brown, who would have earned $5 million in salary for 2012, and signed Green Bay Packers free-agent center Scott Wells.
Brown was not a model of consistency for the Rams last season, but neither were most of his teammates. In retrospect, the Rams paid Pro Bowl money for a player without Pro Bowl credentials, then moved on when they thought Brown's play slipped last season.
Brown was, by all accounts, a hard worker and dedicated player in St. Louis. He was also an increasingly reflective one after the Iraq War claimed his brother in 2003. Last season, Brown touched upon how his brother's death affected his outlook toward football.
"I question how much attention is given to football," Brown told ESPN's Seth Wickersham for a profile. "But it's tough. It's a huge machine that I'm benefiting from."
Brown could be a bargain for the 49ers. He stands 6-foot-3, weighs 328 pounds and would give the team reliable insurance if Daniel Kilgore does not develop into a starter at right guard. Brown could also play center if needed, and his price tag would be far lower than it was when the Rams signed him back in 2009.
The 49ers have met with free-agent guards Deuce Lutui, Leonard Davis and Geoff Schwartz this offseason. Schwartz subsequently signed with the Minnesota Vikings.