What Brandon Browner brings to the New Orleans Saints was sitting on top of his locker at organized team activities last week: a New England Patriots helmet, covered in signatures, from the season that ended with Browner’s second straight Super Bowl ring.
Hanging a little lower in his locker, Browner’s No. 39 Patriots jersey peeked out from the middle of a bunch of other shirts.
Browner’s Patriots gear will leave the Saints locker room as soon as he finds a place in New Orleans, but the significance of his experience isn’t lost on any of his new teammates. Browner was a key part of two straight Super Bowl champions, first with the Seattle Seahawks and then with the Patriots, and that kind of hardware gives Browner instant leadership credibility despite his lack of history in New Orleans.
“All he’s done is win Super Bowls and (Canadian Football League) Grey Cups and everything else,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “He sets the standard.”
Browner, who looked hard at the Saints in 2014 before deciding to sign with New England, already has begun carving out a place in the New Orleans locker room.
He had prior relationships with Keenan Lewis, a teammate at Oregon State, and safety Kenny Vaccaro, who knows Browner from annual offseason workouts in Austin, Texas. A veteran of four seasons in the CFL, Browner has already become something of a mentor to fellow Saints newcomer Delvin Breaux, who’s trying to make the same jump.
And the rest of the secondary knows Browner’s reputation as a key component of two of the NFL’s best secondaries.
“I’ve been around, been on some good teams,” Browner said. “Experience is the best thing I bring, and I’d say I lead by example. I bust my butt day in and day out, and talk to the young guys when need be.”
Browner also brings an undeniable swagger to the Saints secondary.
One of the NFL’s biggest cornerbacks at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds, Browner plays to his size, beating up receivers at the line of scrimmage and standing toe-to-toe with the league’s tallest pass-catchers. In practice, that also means Browner draws penalties — 15 in nine games with New England last year — but the Saints secondary needed a jolt of aggression after finishing 24th in the league in opposing passer rating last season.
“I just try to lead by example, by my play,” Browner said. “Be aggressive. We are defensive guys. I think that’s what gets championships won — defense, intimidation, you know, being aggressive out there. You know, when the ball’s in the air, take it and be a good tackler as a defensive back.”
Aggression can be infectious.
Browner’s style already has caught the attention of the rest of the Saints secondary, even though there are no pads in OTAs. Now that Browner’s in the fold, New Orleans may play more press coverage in the secondary, and the technique requires an attacking, aggressive style that the Saints didn’t always have last season.
“He brings an attitude to our defense that we very much needed, and I think that’s going to be a big plus for us,” safety Rafael Bush said. “BB, he’s angry, man, but we love it and respect it and feed off of it. It’s a good thing for us.”
New Orleans is counting on Browner to make an immediate impact on the field. By bringing in one of the NFL’s most physical press corners and a veteran of two talented secondaries, the Saints instantly stabilized a cornerback position that was often a mess opposite Keenan Lewis last season.
But Browner’s effect on the locker room and the secondary’s mentality as a whole might be just as important.
“It is one of the parts to the equation that attracted us to him,” coach Sean Payton said. “He’s competitive. He’s driven, and certainly one of the things we talked about this offseason through the draft, through the acquisition of players, is the makeup and making sure that that is something we felt like was a plus.”