Nine months after ending his 2017 holdout to play one final game with the Houston Texans, ironically against the team he would be traded to days later, Duane Brown finally got the contract extension he was looking for. On Saturday, Brown inked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks that will take him, most likely, through the end of his playing career, tacking three more years and $36.5 million more dollars to the one season remaining (at $9.75 million in salary) on his current contract.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Brown's deal now includes $16 million in guaranteed new money, and as newly structured, it will pay him $14 million this coming season. Functionally, Brown goes from a one year, $9.75 million contract to a four year, $46.25 million contract, and he will reportedly make $24 million in the first two seasons by achieving very minimal playing incentives.
Brown, who turns 33 at the end of next month, announced the signing on his Instagram page:
Brown's contract comes just a day after two of the rising young left tackles in the league, Jake Matthews of Atlanta and Taylor Lewan of Tennessee, signed new top-of-market deals at $15 million and $16 million per year, respectively. So Brown's deal appears to be properly calibrated for a player of his caliber (pretty good player, still) and age (36 years old when the contract ends).
It raises interesting questions if you are a fan of both the Seahawks and the Texans. First, the Seahawks are at a standstill with holdout safety and franchise icon Earl Thomas. He is hellbent on staying home until he is traded or gets a new deal. Certainly, Thomas' absence shouldn't prevent the Seahawks from doing business, but it would be interesting to get Thomas' take on the team's taking care of a guy who's played half a season with the team.
Here in Houston, the more interesting question, now that we have some actual math on a Brown extension, is "Should the Texans have paid Duane Brown when they had the chance a year ago when he was holding out of training camp?" We know, according to Brown's appearance on Arian Foster's podcast a few months ago, that Brown wanted to finish his career as aTexan when he began his holdout in the spring of 2017:
"I wanted to finish my career there, and I wanted security doing that," Brown said. "I made it known right at the end of the season. There was no conversation throughout the whole offseason about it, which is why I didn't show up to anything. There was a conversation around minicamp where they said we can't do deals with two years left, but they've done it before. Basically they were like, 'We've done it before but you're not worth that.' So, I'm like, 'OK, well, I'm not coming to anything then.'"
We also know how it played out — Brown stuck to his guns until the seventh game of the 2017 season, and the week he came back was the same week that the poop hit the fan with Bob McNair's controversial "inmates running the prison" comments from a private meeting over the summer being made public in an ESPN.com article. Brown was, by far, the most vocal Houston Texan, calling McNair's comments "ignorant" and "embarrassing". Part of the reason Brown was so vocal was because the trade deadline was just days away, and he wanted out:
"I had to voice my displeasure," Brown said. "There was so many other people who wanted to but that fear factor was there. But I was like '(screw it), you don't have to, I will.'"
So let's run this back for a second. To Brown's point, the Texans HAVE redone deals with more than two years remaining on them. They did it for J.J. Watt and Andre Johnson. As a player, Brown isn't at the level of either of those guys at their peaks, but he isn't far behind, particularly within the Texans' historical spectrum. Brown is one of the five best Texans in franchise history. So it wasn't a crazy ask by Brown, especially considering he had no guaranteed money left on the remaining two years of his deal.
My suggestion (in this space) at the time of Brown's holdout was for the Texans to tear up the last two years of his deal, and give him a new three year, $33 million deal, with $15 million guaranteed. Oddly enough, that's almost exactly what the extension from the Seahawks ended up being, if you adjust for inflation, so it's safe to say that my hypothetical contract likely would have gotten Brown back into camp.
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The next question is, once the protests during the anthem became an issue again, in Week 3 after President Trump made his "fire those sons of bitches" comment and in Week 8 after the aforementioned McNair comment reveal, would Brown have been one of the weekly protesters? (NOTE: He raised his fist in Week 3 of 2016 while in street clothes before a Thursday night game in New England.) More importantly, would he have been as vocal in his anti-McNair commentary? My hunch is that a resolved contract issue with millions guaranteed might have made Brown a little less vocal. Certainly, it might have removed words like "ignorant" from his assessment of McNair in this situation.
We know the Texans are desperate right now at left tackle. They were among the final left standing in the Nate Solder bidding war, an inherent sign of desperation. They're getting ready to start a second year, fourth round pick who's started two whole games in the NFL.
Duane Brown sure would look good protecting Deshaun Watson's blind side right about now. We now know, if the Texans were willing to bend on policy, like they did with Watt and Johnson, the math would have easily worked. Whether Brown's relationship with management and ownership would have worked is considerably more complicated.
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