RENTON, WA - To call Duane Brown's offseason heading into his 14th year in the NFL a long one would be an understatement.
From Russell Wilson's uncomfortable public grievances about pass protection to the trade speculation and uncertainty about the quarterback's future that ensued to staging his own "hold in" during training camp seeking a contract extension, Brown has had more than his share of drama since the last time he took the field for the Seahawks. Speaking with e had a chance to pull back the curtain a bit on several topics, including the rumors that once swirled around his teammate.
"It was a lot this offseason," Brown smiled. "I didn't know what was going to happen."
Following the Super Bowl, though he praised Brown during the same interview, Wilson uncharacteristically called out Seattle's offensive line, telling reporters he was tired of "getting hit too much." He also expressed frustrations about not being involved enough in the organization's personnel decisions among other things, spawn relentless trade chatter over the next couple of months.
Through a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter, his agent Mark Rodgers made matters worse by releasing four teams his client would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for, creating a sense of panic for Seattle's fan base.
When asked on Wednesday whether he reached out to the Pro Bowl quarterback after speaking out about the line's issues protecting him, Brown said he "hated to hear" such commentary. But there wasn't any bad blood between them and he suggested Wilson's criticisms pre-dated his arrival from Houston back in 2017.
Shortly after the interview in question, Wilson reached out to him on FaceTime to help clear the air.
“You guys saw what came out. I had to talk him," Brown said. "We had a good conversation. Obviously, there was some stuff said after the Super Bowl. We talked about it. It was a good talk.”
Confident Wilson wouldn't be going anywhere after the two stars smoothed things over, Brown turned his attention back towards his own contract situation. Desiring long-term security with only one year left on his current deal, reports surfaced during OTAs in June that he wanted an extension from the Seahawks.
From Brown's perspective, even after 13 seasons in the league, he feels better now than he did a year ago and film illustrated he "wasn't just holding on" and remained an elite player at his position. Pro Football Focus agrees with that assessment, as the outlet rewarded the veteran with top five grades both as a pass protector and run blocker last season. Stats back up those grades, as he allowed only two sacks and committed two penalties while starting all 16 games for Seattle.
But with Brown set to turn 36 years old in late August, even coming off a dominant bounce-back season, the Seahawks weren't keen on the idea of giving him a new multi-year deal and instead want to move forward on a year-to-year basis similar to how the Rams have handled aging tackle Andrew Whitworth. Without any negotiations taking place, the veteran lineman reported to training camp on time but chose not to participate in on-field work beyond walkthroughs.
Missing his All-Pro blind side protector, in another sign their relationship is in a far better place these days, Wilson showed his gratitude for Brown by stepping up to the plate and publicly supporting his teammate's efforts to land a new deal or receive a reworked contract.
“It meant a lot. Russ is my guy,” Brown said. “It meant a lot to me. He didn’t have to do that. His legacy here is set in stone. It just goes to show how much he appreciates the work I put in. I love the guy. That’s another reason I said I never wanted to miss any games, because I wanted to be out there for him as well.”
With Wilson and other teammates in his corner and the clock ticking to reach an agreement, Brown and the Seahawks finally struck a deal on a restructured contract for 2021. Transitioning his roster bonuses into guarantees, he could now earn up to $12 million instead of $10 million as originally slated. The reworked contract also reportedly includes a $2 million benefit in 2022 as part of a voided year if he isn't able to play due to injury.
While Brown admitted he didn't receive the extension he wanted and the peace of mind that comes with it, he was pleased the front office and his representation could reach a compromise that satisfied both parties. As for the thought of hitting free agency for the first time, though he's intrigued by the possibility, his full focus is on the present to help his team win games.
"It’s never been any bad blood on my end and I just want to make that be known," Brown stated. "I love and respect everybody in this organization and the feeling is mutual. It’s always been a mutual respect throughout this whole process."
Through all of the chaos, Brown never had any doubts he would be back suiting up for Week 1 in Indianapolis and sitting out games never crossed his mind. Although there was a point in time he wasn't sure about how Wilson's situation would play out, he didn't expect No. 3 to be anywhere but under center for Seattle either.
Sure enough, with his revised contract for 2021 signed, sealed, and delivered, Brown rejoined teammates on the practice field Monday sporting a helmet for the first time since January. As has been the case throughout training camp, Wilson was taking snaps from Kyle Fuller and Ethan Pocic as the team ramped up preparation for playing the Colts in the season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After a long stint on the sidelines, Brown understands this week of practice will be crucial to get himself fully back up to speed, particularly with coordinator Shane Waldron's new offense predicated on tempo. Nonetheless, after grinding this offseason, he believes he will be more than ready to go by Sunday.
"I'm ecstatic. Football is my life. This team is amazing. I respect what I do, I respect this organization, I respect my teammates, I respect the fans. I respect everything about it. I put in a lot of work to perform at a high level every week and I don't take that for granted, so to be able to go back and contribute, be amongst the guys, practice, play on Sunday, it means everything to me."
After a tumultuous offseason on many fronts for the franchise, Wilson is happy and Brown is happy. That's great news for the Seahawks as they begin their NFC West title defense this weekend.