The Patriots are “believed” to be among the clubs interested in Bills free agent linebacker Preston Brown, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Brown, in turn, seems to be open to an offer from New England.
“I think I can definitely help the young guys they have,” Brown said. “They’ve got some good young talent at linebacker. They run pretty well. I know (David) Harris retired. A lot of young guys were playing well, (Kyle) Van Noy and (Elandon Roberts) played well. They definitely have some things they can work on like we all do, but I think I can help that defense get better.”
As Brown alludes to elsewhere in Howe’s piece, the Patriots have made a habit of poaching Bills players over the past few seasons. In 2016, New England inked restricted free agent wideout Chris Hogan to an offer sheet that Buffalo failed to match, and last year, the Pats signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore and RFA running back Mike Gillislee.
The Patriots could certainly use help at the second level of their defense, as the unit ranked 31st in run defense DVOA and allowed the second-most adjusted line yards in the league a season ago. New England also struggled covering opposing running backs in the passing game (22nd in DVOA, per Football Outsiders), and none of the club’s primary ‘backers ranked among the top-50 in Pro Football Focus‘ positional grades. Stalwart Dont’a Hightower will return from injury in 2018, but the Patriots could still stand to add another linebacker.
Brown, 25, led the NFL in tackles last year while playing the third-most defensive snaps (1,180) of any linebacker in the league. The former third-round pick has started nearly every possible game (62 of 64) during his four-year career, and has never missed a contest due to injury. Per Howe, the Patriots would likely be interested in Brown at a $5MM annual price point. If his cost jumps into the $8MM per year range, New England would be expected to bow out.
“Anytime you can play for one of the best franchises in NFL history, it’s obviously going to be an option,” Brown said. “They definitely have great players. I met with the coaching staff coming out of college. I have some familiarity with those guys, and they definitely do a great job each and every year of continuing to win.”
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