Whenever my son Alex asks me why a player signed with a new team after being in one city for so many years, I always tell him it’s always about the money. Grab what you can, especially in the NFL, where careers are so short.
But in listening to Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner during separate conference calls Monday afternoon, it seems that sometimes it’s also about something else.
Yes, Revis and Browner – the two newest members of the New England Patriots’ secondary – signed big-money contracts to join Bill Belichick & Co. But they could have gotten that money – Browner signed a three-year deal worth up to $17 million and Revis essentially signed a one-year $12 million contract – elsewhere.
That they chose Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., as their next address came down to one thing: winning.
“It’s basically just about winning, man,” said Revis, when asked why he chose the Patriots. “I weighed my options and I just wanted to win and I felt like this was the right place for me, to be part of the Patriots’ organization.”
The Patriots have won the AFC East title five consecutive seasons and 11 of the 12 seasons Tom Brady has been their starting quarterback. They have missed the playoffs just three times since Belichick became head coach – in 2000 (5-11, his first year, with Drew Bledsoe at quarterback), 2002 (9-7, post-Super Bowl hangover) and 2008 (11-5, with Matt Cassel at quarterback, Brady missing all but the first couple of series of the season with a knee injury).
New England has played in five Super Bowls and eight AFC championship games over that time.
Revis, the former N.Y. Jet/Tampa Bay Buccaneer generally regarded as the best cornerback in football (sorry Richard Sherman), and Browner, the former Seattle Seahawk who will have to miss the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, repeatedly spoke about the Patriots’ winning tradition.
“I watched them win multiple Super Bowls,” said Browner. “They always have the chance to compete to get to the big one. Leaving an organization like Seattle, growing up and up and coming, it was only right for me to come over to New England and have a shot at playing in the big one.
“My goal is to win the big one. That’s why that was part of my decision to come to New England.”
Browner missed out on Seattle’s Super Bowl celebration last February. While he will receive a ring, he was nowhere near MetLife Stadium, serving what was then an indefinite suspension for marijuana use leveled on Nov. 25. Browner and his agent were fighting the suspension when he was reinstated by the NFL in early March.
He chose not to speak much about his suspension during his conference call.
“What I can say is that, for the last few months, my future has been in a dark place,” he said. “I made a few mistakes and that’s one of the mistakes I regret. I look forward to righting my wrongs and I’m blessed at the opportunity to come play in New England and start on a good foot, so to say.”
Revis spent the first six years of his career playing the Patriots twice a year with the Jets in one of the NFL’s more heated rivalries. Two years ago, he called Belichick “a jerk” during an ESPN interview.
“Yeah, me and Bill, we had a conversation about it and it’s in the past,” he said. “We’re both moving forward and we’re excited about working together and trying to win games. I think that’s the biggest goal here, to win games.”
That’s so true. The Patriots know that Brady’s championship window is getting smaller. He will turn 37 during training camp this summer and won’t have too many more chances to win a Super Bowl.
And after the Patriots’ chief AFC rival, the Denver Broncos, made a huge splash on the first two days of free agency – signing safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib (the former Patriot) and defensive end DeMarcus Ware – the Patriots struck back. It was Talib’s signing, perhaps more than anything, that jolted the Patriots. He was their best coverman last year. When they lost him, they needed to do something special.
So they jumped in on Revis as soon as he was released by Tampa Bay. He said he had interest from “26 teams, at least.” But none had the winning cachet of the Patriots. Then they signed Browner, one of the original members of Seattle’s vaunted Legion of Boom defense.
Then the Patriots brought back wide receiver Julian Edelman, Brady’s favorite target last year, and reportedly signed wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who caught a career-high 49 passes for Carolina last year.
But it’s the Revis and Browner signings that have most Patriots fans giddy. Combined with Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan, they give the Patriots perhaps the deepest set of cornerbacks in the NFL. And Revis (28 years old, 5-foot-11, 198 pounds) and Browner (29, 6-4, 221), have the ability to shut down anyone they cover.
More than that, they look forward to playing in the same secondary.
“He’s one of the guys I studied,” said Browner. “Across the league, there are a few guys I like to watch on film. To be able to play with that guy, it will be fun.
“He’s actually the only guy I asked to trade and exchange a jersey with. That’s the kind of respect that guy’s gained. I just look forward to playing and playing alongside him and the rest of those guys up in New England.”
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at:[email protected]