By any measure, the Patriots made a massive move Tuesday morning.
According to a league source, they have agreed to acquire 6-foot-8-inch, 360-pound Trent Brown and a 2022 seventh-round draft pick from the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round selection.
The deal, which won’t become official until the new league year commences March 17, brings one of the top offensive tackles in the NFL back to the place where he had the best season of his six-year career.
Brown, 27, first came to Foxborough in April 2018 when the Patriots sent a third-rounder to the 49ers for him. New England also received a fifth-rounder in that deal.
Though he had mostly been a right tackle, Brown settled in at left tackle immediately, thriving under Dante Scarnecchia’s tough-love approach as offensive line coach. He started all 19 games as the Patriots roared to their sixth Super Bowl title with a 13-3 win over the Rams.
Known mainly for his pass-blocking prowess, Brown became a more complete player in New England. By late in the campaign, he became a bulldozer in the run game as well, with the postseason wins over the Chiefs and Rams as Exhibits A and B.
Brown drew high praise from coach Bill Belichick as the Patriots were ramping up for their playoff run.
“Trent’s very athletic,” Belichick said in December 2018. “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.”
In 2019, Brown hit the free agent market, where he scored big, signing a four-year, $66 million pact with the Raiders. He leaves Las Vegas after two seasons, 16 games played, and about $35 million in earnings.
A seventh-round pick by the 49ers out of Florida in 2015, Brown was set to make $13.7 million this season and another $15 million with the Raiders next year but instead will make up to $11 million on a reworked one-year deal with the Patriots.
The transaction cuts about $14 million off Las Vegas’s salary cap. The Patriots head into the new league year with about $66 million in cap space.
Brown played just five games in 2020 and spent two separate stints on the COVID-19 reserve list. He also was rushed to a hospital Nov. 11 following a scary pregame incident in Cleveland. As Brown was receiving an IV in the locker room, air entered his bloodstream, creating an emergency situation. It kept him out nearly a month.
It became clear that neither Brown nor the Raiders were happy with the arrangement, with Las Vegas general manager Mike Mayock hinting at some frustration last week.
“Trent’s whole thing is, when he’s healthy, in shape, and ready to go, he’s as dominant as any tackle in football, and he proved that early in the 2019 season,” said Mayock. “Since then, it’s kind of been a roller coaster.
“So really, what he needs to do more than anything is get himself in the best shape of his life and come out and prove that he is a dominant tackle in the National Football League, and really that’s all it takes. If Trent gets in shape and stays committed, there’s not a better talent out there.”
Brown took to social media to comment on the trade, first tweeting three smiling hug emojis with a follow-up of “Money don’t mean [anything] if you ain’t happy I swear to GOD!!” He then posted a picture on Instagram of himself during the Super Bowl LIII parade with the caption, “I love it here!!”
Shaq Mason was among the first Patriots to weigh in, simply tweeting a smiling-face emoji.
Brown’s arrival will cause a ripple effect along the offensive line that likely won’t be sorted until training camp. The possibilities are multiple.
New England could lose left guard Joe Thuney, who likely will land a multiyear free agent deal worth upward of $16 million-$17 million per annum as one of the most desirable offensive linemen on the market. He earned $14.7 million under the franchise tag in 2020. The club could tag him again, but at $17.7 million, the cost is prohibitive.
The Patriots could bump left tackle Isaiah Wynn to Thuney’s spot — he made one start there last season and played guard at Georgia — and have Brown at left tackle.
Another possibility would be to put Brown at right tackle if the club decides to move on from Marcus Cannon, which would clear $6.3 million in salary-cap space. In this scenario, Mike Onwenu could slide into Thuney’s spot and Wynn would stay put at left tackle.