Troy’s a real keeper: Pats should bring Brown back again
By Michael Felger
Boston Herald Patriots Beat Columnist
Sunday, March 18, 2007 - Updated: 07:35 AM EST
The Patriots [team stats] should bring back Troy Brown [stats] this fall for a 15th NFL season, but not because he deserves it.
They should do it because he can help them win football games - maybe even another championship.
If there’s one thing about Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli you’ll never have to worry about, it’s them letting emotion or reputation creep into the decision-making process. If they did, Brown would have a job for life and Anthony Pleasant, Otis Smith, Bobby Hamilton, Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Joe Andruzzi, Roman Phifer, Deion Branch, Willie McGinest and Adam Vinatieri (just to name a few) would still be wearing a Patriots uniform.
As we all know by now, “sentiment” is a dirty word to Belichick. He only cares about value and winning.
Brown still provides both.
Yes, Brown is old (he’ll turn 36 in July), and it looks like he’s lost a full step since his 2001-02 heyday, when he caught a combined 198 passes and made his only Pro Bowl (2001). No one is saying he should come back as anything more than a fourth or fifth receiver. With Donte’ Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington joining incumbents Reche Caldwell [stats] and Jabar Gaffney [stats] on the depth chart, there’s little chance of that happening anyway.
But the Pats have never had a durable receiving corps under Belichick, and both Stallworth (four missed games last year with Philadephia) and Washington (12 games missed with Cincinnati) have a history of chronic hamstring problems. Welker is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, and is an injury risk every time he touches the ball. Insurance policies are needed, and Brown is the perfect candidate.
The Pats have carried six receivers before, and if it means keeping Brown in the fold, they should consider it. Besides, how can you be convinced that Gaffney or Washington belongs on the team ahead of Brown in the first place? The Pats surely hope that’s the way it shakes out, but Washington has barely played in two years and Gaffney was a nobody until making a late playoff surge for the Pats last year.
Meanwhile, Brown is coming off his healthiest and most productive season since his prime. He had 43 receptions, the most he’d had since grabbing 97 in 2002. He played all 16 games for the first time since 2001. His four receiving touchdowns were the most he’d scored since 2003 and were just two short of his career high. Brown did all that still playing defense and special teams through the end of the year.
Above all, Brown proved once again he has that knack for the special play in the big game. No one will ever forget his strip of San Diego safety Marlon McCree following a late Tom Brady [stats] interception in the divisional playoffs. But a smaller example occurred on special teams. Brown was basically a good-hands punt returner during the regular season, recording nine fair catches with just two returns (for 12 yards). Then in the AFC Championship Game, he returned three punts for 39 yards, with no fair catches.
And he’s not done making those kinds of plays.
Brown would probably come cheap. A one-year, minimum salary of $820,000 would qualify for the veteran minimum exemption and count just $430,000 against the salary cap. And there’s also talk in league circles of expanding gameday rosters from 45 to 47 players in 2007, which makes it easier to carry Brown on the roster.
Remember, Brown can back up at receiver, defensive back and punt returner. He’s returned kicks. He was even the Pats’ third quarterback last year prior to Vinny Testaverde [stats]’s arrival in November. That’s value.
Forget everything Brown has done in the past and the fact he’s one of the most popular Patriots [team stats] players of all time.
Just think about what he can do in 2007. It’s more than enough.
Bring him back.