The New England Patriots have a hole at wide receiver, and this years’ free agency class is rather grim. While a player like Golden Tate or Adam Humphries could immediately improve the offense, both players are at the top of the market and could receive deals averaging more than $10 million per year. New England historically doesn’t invest in wide receivers, so they might need to bargain hunt. While he’s a drastically different player than a guy like Tate or Humphries, former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver John Brown would be a cost-effective addition who could add a new element to the Patriots’ offense.
New England Patriots Free Agent Targets: John Brown
The Patriots offense is predicated on short, quick passes in an effort to methodically march down the field. However, New England still needs someone capable of stretching the field and taking the top off the defense. John Brown thrives in this role, as he is one of the best deep threat receivers in the league when he’s healthy.
Brown suffered through sickle cell for better part of two seasons before returning to health in 2018. The former third-round pick had a fantastic start to the 2018 season, recording 28 receptions for 558 yards and four touchdowns over the first seven games. When extrapolated to a full 16-game sample, Brown was on pace for 64 receptions, 1,275 yards, and nine touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Brown, his production came to a screeching halt when Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback. Jackson’s a fantastic athlete and helped pushed Baltimore into the playoffs, but his skillset made Brown irrelevant in the offense. Transforming into a run-heavy unit, Brown recorded just eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown with Jackson under center.
Because of this slow finish, many people around the league are overlooking what Brown can bring to an offense. Tate and Humphries are the stars of this years’ class, and players like Tyrell Williams are expected to receive more on the open market. When healthy, Brown is just as good as any of these players and will only cost a fraction of the price.
How Brown Fits New England
Brown is something of a one-trick pony, but he does that one trick incredibly well. Boasting breakneck speed with route running prowess, Brown is an expert at hauling in deep passes down the field. Throughout the course of his career, Brown averages 15.0 yards-per-reception, eighth-most among wide receivers with at least 200 receptions. This average beats out notable stars like Tyreek Hill, Brandin Cooks, and Odell Beckham.
A player like Brown isn’t normally associated with New England, but history shows that someone like him can be productive in New England’s system. Back in 2017, the Patriots traded a first-round pick for big-play speedster Brandin Cooks. Cooks is a better player than Brown, but these two have similar skill sets. During Cooks’ lone year in New England, the former first-round pick recorded 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. New England boasted one of the best offenses in football that year, with Tom Brady winning league MVP honors.
New England didn’t have anyone to fill Cooks’ role in 2018, and his absence was notably felt throughout large portions of the season. Julian Edelman is still fantastic, but New England needs to get an outside receiver capable of making a defense respect downfield throws to the perimeter. Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett simply weren’t good enough to make teams consistently respect New England’s ability to stretch the field. Brown can provide that threat, which in turn should open up the underneath passing game.
Last Word on John Brown in New England
The Patriots need to add a cost-effective receiver, and they can do that by signing wide receiver John Brown. Finally healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, Brown looked like his 2015 self with Joe Flacco under center. However, his production took a dive with Lamar Jackson, which actually ends up helping New England. Brown can still play, but his underwhelming end to the season will lower his value and place him in New England’s price range.
Brown is a pure deep threat, and the Patriots need somebody capable of getting open deep and stretching the field. Since 2014, Brown has the eighth-highest yards-per-reception among players with 200 receptions. This speaks to his game-breaking ability, and Tom Brady has a favorable history with one-dimensional players like Brown.
The New England Patriots have never made big investments in the wide receiver position, and players like Golden Tate and Adam Humphries might price their way out of New England. If the Patriots are looking for a good bargain to help solidify their wide receiver depth, they should sign John Brown and then draft somebody like Andy Isabella or Hunter Renfrow in the 2019 NFL Draft.
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