Patriots-Trent Brown Contract Negotiations Reach Key Tipping Point

Sep 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77)
Sep 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Brown had a controversial 2023 campaign with the New England Patriots, and it looks like it might have been his last season in a Patriots uniform. The team allowed Brown's contract to void today, which means that the offensive tackle will be able to enter free agency on March 13.

In November, it was reported that Brown was "habitually late to things" after he was left behind while the Patriots made the trip to Germany to face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10. Following New England's Thursday Night Football win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14, the Boston Herald reported that Brown had "openly discussed plans to play for an NFC team in the team locker room."

When Brown was inactive for New England's Week 17 road loss to the Buffalo Bills, apparently teammates felt that he could have played but chose not to. This drew the ire of one unnamed player in particular, who made his feelings known to Mike Giardi of Boston Sports Journal:

"'A lot of us — almost all — are fighting for each other and for pride, even though the results aren’t what any of us want,' the unnamed player told Giardi. 'It sucks that not everyone is willing to put it out there. I hope people who sign the checks are paying attention.'"

Unnamed Patriots Player to Mike Giardi

With the team allowing Brown's contract to be voided, perhaps the "people who sign the checks" did in fact take notice. Giardi also noted that many members of the team viewed Brown as an "independent contractor" and felt that he was only "concerned with himself and his finances."

For his part, Brown emphatically denied many of the reports surrounding his behavior and character this season, labeling the reports as a "smear campaign." Several players, including universally respected captain Matthew Slater, publicly defended Brown:

"Look, I’m not in the room with the linemen or the offense, but Trent has been a stand-up guy. He’s come into work. He’s come in ready and prepared. He worked hard this offseason. Obviously, he was playing some really good football in the early portion of the year and unfortunately had some injuries, but I have no issues with Trent. I enjoy being around him, I’ve enjoyed playing with him and that’s all I can really say."

Matthew Slater on WEEI's Jones & Mego

During his candid interview with NESN, the Florida Gators product stated he wasn't opposed to returning to the Patriots, but that "before that would take place, some things would need to be hashed out and understood." Brown explained his gripe with the coaching staff:

"Because I’ve even heard from coaches how they’ll sit in staff meetings and they’ll be talking about how they can f–k with me. Like, I guess trying to get me out of character or whatever. It’s really crazy to think that we’re spending time talking about that instead of getting better"

Trent Brown

WIth Bill Belichick's departure from Foxborough and turnover among the coaching staff, there was some belief that perhaps an olive branch could be extended under new head coach Jerod Mayo. However, that is clearly not the case, as evidenced by today.

Brown previously played for the Patriots during their 2018 season, capped off by a Super Bowl LIII victory over the Los Angeles Rams. The 30-year-old is ranked as the 22nd-best free agent overall, and second-best tackle by Pro Football Focus.

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