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Broncos free agent target: Wide Receiver John Brown

If the Denver Broncos are looking for a veteran speed receiver, it’d pay to reunite John Brown with Joe Flacco.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers
The veteran burner could reunite with Flacco.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With hours before the opening of the NFL’s Legal Tampering period and mere days before the official Free Agency, the time seemed right to give you a little more information about a player that makes too much sense if the Denver Broncos are chasing a veteran speed receiver.


Height: 5’10”

Weight: 179 lbs

Age: 28

Experience: 6th year

Drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft. So far in his career he has caught 215 passes for 3230 yards and 22 touchdowns. In 2015 he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and 7 touchdown, serving as a tertiary weapon in the Bruce Arians offense. Since then things have been a bit murkier for Brown, as injuries and shaky quarterback play defined his last two seasons in the desert.

Brown hit free agency last year and signed a 1-year deal to play with Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens. Early the move looked like a smashing success. Brown caught 7 passes of 20+ yards for 266 receiving yards. His totals came back to Earth a bit once Lamar Jackson entered the lineup, but the veteran receiver still finished the year with 42 catches for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Isaac Yiadom remembers John Brown, and you should too.

Why it makes sense

He averaged 80 yards a game with Joe Flacco, with the quarterback posting a 115.9 when targeting Brown. Look at those numbers with Flacco again and extrapolate them over a 16 game season. If the Broncos are looking for a speed receiver to step into a number 2 or 3 role in the Rich Scangarello offense, no free agent receiver fits the Broncos needs quite as well as the former Raven.

He’s also likely to come at an affordable rate. While he’s certainly shown flashes of talent, Brown’s injury history and overall efficiency leaves enough questions that he could sign for a short term “prove-it” deal or at an affordable rate. In a market where Adam Humphries are rumored to be seeking close to $10 million a season, Brown could be a huge bargain.

Why it doesn’t make sense

During the 2016 season Brown was diagnosed with the sickle cell trait. As ESPN reported then:

Arizona Cardinals receiver John Brown has sickle-cell trait, coach Bruce Arians said

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle-cell trait is the result of one inherited sickle-cell gene and one normal gene. Those with the sickle-cell trait “usually” don’t exhibit symptoms of sickle-cell disease. In rare cases, however, “people with SCT might experience complications of SCD, such as pain crises.” According to the CDC’s website, those with sickle-cell trait are “more likely” to experience muscle breakdown when doing “intense exercise” than those who don’t have the trait.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Clark missed games in Denver because of the trait.

Near-death experience at heart of Ryan Clark’s game-day drive - The Washington Post

It was an extreme complication, normally seen only in those with the full-blown blood disorder. But it demanded that Ryan undergo emergency surgery to remove his spleen and gall bladder, which ended his 2007 NFL season.

While reports from Mike Klis indicate that neither the Broncos or Brown are concerned about the condition, it’s one that bears monitoring.

Outside of that very serious concern is Emmanuel Sanders, the current Broncos veteran receiver who is recovering from a torn Achilles. Denver has recently picked up the receivers $1.5 million option. He carries a $12,937,500 cap hit this season. If Brown signs, it may be a situation where Elway makes Sanders available for trade, or release.

Final Thoughts

If the Broncos are going to add a veteran receiver and feel comfortable with Brown’s health, no other option makes as much sense to me. Denver isn’t looking for OBJ so much as a deep threat that can help take attention off sophomore receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. If he can stay healthy, Brown’s a good fit for that.


Should the Broncos sign John Brown?

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