The identity of the Saints’ secondary last season was unknown.
There were too many moving pieces and unrest to get a read on who and what they were. The only common thread throughout the season were disappointment and lots of yards for the offense.
It looks like that is going to change.
The team signed cornerback Brandon Browner Thursday afternoon to a three-year deal to lock down the cornerback spot opposite Keenan Lewis.
A team spokesman announced the move on Twitter. NFL Network reports the deal is worth $18 million.
On Thursday, before Browner was signed, guard Ben Grubbs was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a fifth-round pick. The move saved New Orleans $3.6 million against the cap.
Not only does the transaction fulfill one of the team’s biggest needs. Browner also brings the identity of being one of the most physical, imposing cornerbacks in the NFL.
His style of play led to Browner committing 15 accepted penalties over nine games last season, but the 6-foot-4 cornerback is known for blowing receivers up at the line of scrimmage.
His physical style of play and ability in press coverage could signal a more physical style of play could be coming to New Orleans and there will be a shift away from zone coveages.
Browner flew into the town Wednesday to meet with the Saints after being let go by the New England Patriots, who declined to pick up his $2 million option, earlier in the week.
He spent the previous three seasons in Seattle, which signed Browner out of the CFL.
Browner finished last season with one interception and 25 tackles. He missed the final three games of the 2013 season and the first four games of the 2014 season after testing positive for marijuana.
He also failed a drug test in 2006 while playing for the Denver Broncos. Because he did not submit to drug tests while playing in the Canadian Football League from 2006-2010, Browner is listed as a Stage 3 offender.
Lewis has shown a knack for matching up well with receivers of all sizes, but Browner’s length could be a benefit next season against longer receivers such as Atlanta’s Julio Jones (6-foot-3), Dallas’ Dez Bryant (6-foot-2), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (6-foot-5), and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (6-foot-3). Browner could also be asked to match up with tight ends or play linebacker in the red zone, as he did at times in New England.
The boost in performance should considerably help a defense that finished 25th in the NFL with 4,019 passing yards allowed. Getting safety Jairus Byrd back from a knee injury that limited him to four games should also help.
Browner’s ability to press and eliminate receivers early in their routes could also help the pass rush improve by giving them more time to get after the quarterback. New Orleans finished 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks.
Browner’s addition is the latest move the Saints have made this offseason in an effort to transform a roster that finished 7-9 last season. Earlier this week, the team released linebacker Curtis Lofton and earlier parted ways with running back Pierre Thomas.
It also traded tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first-round draft pick.
Change was promised by coach Sean Payton following the season. It will take time before it is known if all the change was good change.
But at least with this move the team will move closer to forming a positive identity in the secondary.