Free agency is upon us. A flurry of moves were made yesterday, many of which had Ravens fans both groaning over the loss of a certain free agent, and moaning in lament as the Ravens stood idly by. It wouldn’t be until late in the afternoon that a move would be made, and when it was, a large portion of the fanbase was not happy. That move was former Arizona Cardinals WR John Brown. Here’s what you may not know.
Brown, also known as ‘Smokey’, was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft, by the Arizona Cardinals. He caught about half his passes (48 of 103 targets) that year for 696 yards and 5 touchdowns. Not a bad get for an undersized speedster. He followed that year up with just 65 catches.. for over 1,000 yards. And 7 touchdowns. This is where I want to begin.
I’ve seen a lot of Ravens fans calling Brown a ‘bum’, or saying that he’s washed up already (he’s 27). Those people are looking at stats, and viewing injury history, but they clearly are not watching tape, or reading any backstory on the speedy little guy. Brown has the ability to be a big play receiver, make contested catches, and plays bigger than his size. (Seriously. Watch some tape. He likes to run through corners.) His catch rate doesn’t look great, but when you take into consideration that he had Drew Stanton throwing him the ball every time Palmer went down (more often than not), you have to make an adjustment to viewing those stats. Brown has a very high ceiling, if he can stay healthy. Which brings me to my next point.
Many Ravens fans are pointing to Brown’s injury history as a reason as to why we shouldn’t have signed him – a valid point, considering the amount of players we’ve lost to injuries over the past few seasons. What most of them don’t know is that Brown has SCT, or the sickle cell trait. (For those of you who don’t know what that is, look it up. I’m not a doctor, and don’t want to mislead you.) The long and short of that means that, when he gets injured, a lot of times it’s inexplicable, and takes much longer to heal. He was just diagnosed back in 2016, and the disease is easily manageable through extra hydration. Extreme heat can exacerbate the disease (he played in Phoenix – one year when I lived there, it was a blistering 130 degrees), as can playing in high elevations (No Mile High Miracle here.) Neither of these will be a concern this season (one year contract). All this being said, Brown has missed more than one game exactly once in his career (I’m not counting games started – the two are not the same thing.) He appears more injury prone than he actually is, due to the disease. I’m not saying it will be a non-factor, but I do think he should be more durable in a more temperate climate.
Finally, his contract is VERY team-friendly. 1 year, $5 million, with $1.5 million extra in incentives. For a guy who could very well revert to his 2015 form, that’s not bad at all. In fact, to outplay his contract, Brown would have to grab 40 balls for 380 yards, and have just 2 touchdowns. He’s missed that mark exactly once in his career, last season, when the Cardinals offense was as miserable as ours was in the first half of the season, and he missed 6 games (only started in 5). The one year contract enables us to see what he has left, and if it isn’t what we need, we can move on. His age allows us to keep him after that contract, if he turns out to be a productive member of our offense.
In essence, we’ve signed a guy with all the upside in the world, at a price that can’t hurt us, for a short contract, to see what we can see. We kick the tires on a guy that could potentially improve our slot position more than anybody we’ve drafted or signed in the past 5 years. Yes, it could go the other way. He could fall flat on his face, pull an Allen Robinson, and we could lose him for the season. But have some faith, Ravens fans. You wanted the WR corps revamped – this is what the first step looks like. Don’t kill the guy before he has a chance to take a snap on the field.
You all longed for younger, faster, cheaper wide receivers, instead of putting an old band-aid on an ever-seeping wound for a year or two. Somebody who we could groom, and could potentially use for a foundation to rebuild an offense that has been average at best since 2015. Ladies and gentlemen of the Flock.. I give you John Brown.