In a move that had been rumored for months, the New England Patriots added even more experienced depth to the linebacker corps, signing 14-year veteran Chad Brown for a second tour of duty with the team.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but it is believed that Brown, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year deal that included the minimum base salary of $820,000. Although there were expectations that the Patriots would add Brown before the start of training camp, the move is still a bit curious, since the former Pro Bowl performer is well past his prime, has not been a productive player for several years, and struggled with New England in 2005.
Brown, 37, played eight games in 2006 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise with which he began his NFL career, and posted only seven tackles and one sack. In recent seasons, including 2006, Brown has been plagued by injuries.
Signed by the Steelers at mid-season, when their linebacker depth chart was decimated by injuries, Brown saw his campaign end prematurely when he suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
The former University of Colorado star has appeared in just 30 games the past three years, and has just two sacks in that stretch.
Unlike another veteran linebacker signed by the Pats this spring, Junior Seau, Brown will not be counted on by the New England coaches to compete for a starting job. Instead, he is seen as a backup with great versatility, a former outside linebacker standout in a 3-4 alignment, but a player who can also align at inside linebacker. With 13 linebackers on the camp roster, however, Brown may be hard-pressed to make it into the regular season.
Brown began his career as a Steelers' second-round choice in the 1993 draft and, during his career in Pittsburgh, developed into one of the NFL's top outside pass rushers. Along with the Steelers (1993-96, 2006), he has also played with Seattle (1997-2004) and New England (2005). In his first tour with the Patriots, he posted 54 tackles in 15 games, but lost his job as a starter midway through the season.
For his career, Brown has 1,075 tackles, 79 sacks, six interceptions, 41 passes defensed, 19 forced fumbles and 13 recoveries. He has appeared in three Pro Bowl games, and played in 186 regular-season games, with 161 starts.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com