Could Bob Quinn’s Big Name Signing Go To Zach Brown?
Zach Brown came out of nowhere last season to take the distinction of being one of the elite linebackers in the NFL. The 27 year old started his career in Tennessee as a second round pick out of North Carolina, but was let walk after his rookie contract. This followed his being generally disappointing in relation to his draft position and being a hold over from a past regime. After being thrust back into the starting lineup due to an injury to rookie Reggie Ragland however, Brown grabbed the opportunity and came into his own having a Pro Bowl season patrolling the middle of the field for Rex Ryan and showing off a diverse skill set. The real question with Brown on the market will be though whether he was just a one year wonder or if this is the real Zach Brown, and it’s going to cost a team a very large sum of money if they’re wrong about the answer.
What Can Zach Brown Bring To The Table?
First and foremost Zach Brown has elite athleticism, which makes him a great fit to fill the middle linebacker spot in Detroit due to the amount of two linebacker looks that the Lions’ defense plays. He’s a very strong run defender with the power to get off blocks and rarely misses on a tackle, wrapping up regularly. Brown is also very capable in pass coverage against tight ends but will struggle at times against really shifty smaller receivers. That said he’s proven to be a jack of all trades at linebacker playing in a variety of scheme looks, rushing the passer effectively in blitz situations, showing strong hands and playmaking ability, etc. If he can maintain his level of play from last year he’s a true three down linebacker at a time when there are very few in the NFL.
Why Might Zach Brown Be Available?
Despite this the Bills might still let him go because he’s going to cost a whole lot of money. While having a decent amount of cap room left at roughly $25 million in space, the Bills have an absurd 33 players hitting free agency this off-season including other big money guys like Robert Woods and Stephon Gilmore. They could certainly try to prioritize Brown but when you factor in all the depth guys they can’t just let walk and the money they need to sign draft picks and players to help them transition back to a 4-3 defense, that will be very difficult to do. There’s also the matter of the Bills’ second round pick from last year who Brown stepped in to replace: Reggie Ragland. While you could put both out on the field and have Brown as the outside linebacker with Ragland in the middle, you already have depth at that position which would make them think twice about prioritizing him over say a Robert Woods considering there’s absolutely nothing at receiver after Sammy Watkins. It will be a tough decision for Buffalo but it looks like there’s a very strong chance Brown will be hitting the market.
The Bottom Line On Zach Brown
Zach Brown seems like a very expensive solution to a generally inexpensive problem. The real question with whether he is worth bringing in is where his price range falls. If he starts asking for top-10 middle linebacker money, which he wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to ask for when you look at what he did specifically last season, he’s not worth discussing. With only one year of elite production, shelling out $7 million+ a year for a linebacker should be a non starter for Bob Quinn and co. If his value however falls within the 11-15 range, $4-5 million a year, with an incentive laden contract that is definitely worth taking a chance on based on what he’s proven capable of. Brown is a talent that if he continues to play at this level will be the type of player that can single-handedly turn a defense around, especially one in Detroit that has a severe lack of starting level talent in it’s linebacker group. Brown can bring in over a hundred tackles a year with regularity as well as a few sacks and a pick, and give Detroit an elite duo at the position for the first time since Steven Tulloch left – if Deandre Levy regains form.