FOXBORO, Mass. — Trent Brown’s paycheck should soon match his stature.
The New England Patriots massive left tackle is an athletic freak. At nearly 6-foot-9 and 365 pounds, Brown looks like an 18-wheeler but peels out of his stance like a Range Rover. One scout told NESN.com, “There aren’t many people you marvel at when you are around athletes, but he’s one of them.”
Brown, 25, is immensely self-aware and self-confident in his season-long quest to prove decision-makers from his stops along the way wrong. And he’s enjoying every minute of it.
Why shouldn’t he? Brown is due to get a hefty pay raise next off-season when he hits free agency.
His weight, however, has been the No. 1 cause for concern his entire playing career. The San Francisco 49ers, who drafted Brown in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft, talked endlessly about it to reporters.
It’s not quite Festivus yet, but Brown held an airing of grievances as he casually leaned against an overtaxed wooden folding table next to his locker Friday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
“I mean, they can say what they want about my weight, but when you look at the film — and you can ask anybody,” Brown told NESN.com. “Any defensive end or defensive lineman I played against, they’ll tell you like, ‘Damn.’ They know. They played me. You look at film, and you don’t see me getting my ass beat or anything like that. So, my weight doesn’t have anything to do with it. If you want to just have something to say, then I guess. But hey, f— ’em.”
Brown doesn’t believe the 49ers did enough to help keep his weight in check. That hasn’t been a problem with the Patriots. Brown is listed at 380, but he’s required to stay at 365 pounds or less. Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said Brown has made his weight “all the time.”
Brown is actually still shedding pounds 13 weeks into the season with the help of his “right-hand man” Ted Harper, the Patriots’ nutritionist. That’s unchartered waters for Brown.
For once, “it’s easy.” Brown said he’s able to eat whatever he wants but within reason.
“They actually have the tools and the resources in place here in house to help with that type of stuff,” Brown said. “They don’t just leave you out to dry and then talk s— about you and try to dim your light to everybody so they can get you cheap.”
It wasn’t a surprise when Brown fell to the seventh round after the way his career at the University of Florida unfolded.
Brown played left and right tackle for two years at Georgia Military College. He made five starts with the Gators at right tackle as a junior while future first-round pick D.J. Humphries was the team’s starting left tackle. Brown then moved to guard, where he made six starts in 2014 as a senior.
Looking for a good way to piss off a 6-foot-9, athletic offensive tackle? (If so, why?) Move him to guard.
“In the spring, I mean, they said they wanted the best five (offensive linemen) on the field,” Brown said. “There was no reason why I shouldn’t have been playing tackle, but I was thinking that, you know, I’d do this, they’ll look at it, I’d be versatile, and I’m helping the team. They’ll help me out when it comes time to talk to scouts and stuff. I guess that’s not what happened. I played guard out of position. And then I got drafted in the seventh round.”
Negative information did indeed get leaked to NFL scouts.
NESN.com acquired final NFL scouting combine evaluations and a 2015 pro scout report on Brown from an AFC team. The combine evaluation described Brown as “lazy,” “an underachiever” and that “weight is an issue.” The pro scouting report projected Brown as a backup right tackle.
Brown has always thought of himself as a tackle. After playing running back — imagine that — through Pop Warner, Brown started at left tackle in high school. After two years at JUCO, Brown had offers from all over. He initially planned to play at the University of Georgia but retracted his commitment when they told another recruit, Laremy Tunsil, they would move Brown to guard, according to a recruiting bio acquired from an SEC school.
It’s not that Brown doesn’t believe he’s a good fit at guard.
“Guard is easy as hell,” Brown said. “It’s super easy. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a big guy with long arms. Everything happens so much faster in there, but guard is really just like me and you right here. I just come out of my stance and put my hands on you. It’s that easy. But at tackle, you got all this space to work with.”
UNLIKELY BLIND-SIDE BLOCKER
There were 22 offensive tackles drafted before Brown in 2015. Many of them are either out of the NFL or have since moved to guard. Only two other players, Humphries and Donovan Smith, are regular starters at left tackle this season. Brown has allowed fewer sacks than both of them. So, why is Brown able to play left tackle with his frame?
“Trent’s very athletic,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “A lot of times on the left side of the line you face some very athletic players. Some have size but a lot of them are maybe a little undersized relative to the guys on the right side, but their speed and athleticism can be a little bit greater. He’s able to match up with those guys with his length and his athleticism, and then he has some advantages over there with his size and his power. He’s a very unique player with his skill set. The size is rare. His athleticism is good but when you combine it with his size, that’s rare too. You don’t see guys that big playing over there and he’s very gifted.”
The subject of Brown’s athleticism is always broached when speaking to coaches and scouts about the big tackle.
“You don’t find guys with that length and girth with the ability to bend and move very often,” Bert Williams, Brown’s head coach at Georgia Military College, said in a phone interview Saturday. “He’s exceptionally athletic, especially for his size. And he has such unbelievable reach and length with those arms. It’s fun to watch him.”
Brown knows his size is an advantage.
“It definitely helps a lot, especially with my height,” Brown said. “And then I have a little weight to go with it. It’s probably harder for guys to bull (rush) me, seeing that they have the leverage advantage always.”
The Patriots only were able to acquire their starting left tackle because the 49ers drafted Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Brown knew he’d be traded after that pick. He was moved for a third-round, fifth-round swap the next day.
“My agent (Drew Rosenhaus) had told me, warned me earlier in the day,” Brown said. “He was like, ‘If they draft a tackle in the first round, you don’t have to worry about going back out there. We’re going to be looking for a trade.’ And so I was actually with my financial advisor in New York trying to handle some business when I got the call when we were at dinner.
“And I was elated. Because I was looking forward to just finishing with a good year and going into free agency. But like I said in my first press conference here, ‘God makes no mistakes.’ And I think I’ve fared pretty well ever since I’ve been here. It’s been a real blessing to be here with this team, these coaches.”
Things obviously didn’t end great between Brown and the 49ers after he missed the final four weeks of the season with a shoulder injury. The way Brown tells it, the 49ers wanted him to keep playing through it. Brown wanted to get right for the 2018 season, knowing San Francisco would miss the playoffs anyway and had a brighter future in the upcoming year with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
“When I got hurt, things changed,” Brown said.
Brown’s trade to the Patriots came as a bit of a surprise to the New England media (at least to this reporter). He was known as a right tackle, and that’s where Marcus Cannon plays. The Patriots had just spent a first-round pick on Isaiah Wynn, who was expected to take over the left tackle job from Nate Solder.
Brown, who played two games at left tackle in 2017, actually knew he’d play the blind side right away.
“First meeting, I sat down with Bill up there by Miss Nancy (Meyer’s) office, and he was like, ‘Well, uh, we’re going to work you at both, but we want to get a good look at you at left.’ And I kind of had that idea already,” Brown said. “I knew Solder had just left.”
FREE AGENCY ON THE HORIZON
Brown is a free-agent-to-be. He’s playing left tackle for one of the most high profile teams in the NFL. He’s set for a huge payday after the season. The last left tackle who left the Patriots, Solder, became the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman this offseason, signing a four-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants. Brown is well aware of all of that.
“It’s the greatest situation,” Brown said. “Nobody could be in a better situation than me, like, right now at this point in my career. It’s just a great situation.”
And he’s more than willing to come back to the Patriots.
“I don’t mind being back here at all,” Brown said. “But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Brown has allowed just three sacks this season, and one came when he played through a back injury in Week 10 against the Tennesee Titans. The Patriots haven’t seen a significant drop off from Solder to Brown this season, as the offensive line has actually improved around him. He faces one of his toughest tests Sunday against Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen.
The Patriots would be smart to re-sign Brown if he doesn’t break the bank. But as he said, he’s in a good situation. And at this point, he’d be crazy not to test the market after proving he can play left tackle at a high level for one of the best teams in the NFL.