Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner has been reinstated by the NFL.
He had previously been suspended indefinitely for failing a drug test, reportedly marijuana. Browner had been hit with the possible year-long suspension as an allegedly unknowing member Stage Three of the NFL's Drug and Alcohol program, which he was admitted to after reportedly missing NFL-ordered drug tests while in Canada playing for the CFL. The argued illogical reasoning for Browner's elevation into Stage Three was the crux of a lawsuit that Browner and his agent Peter Schaffer had planned to bring against the NFL, and apparently the threat of that lawsuit worked. The two sides settled out of court, and while Browner is reinstated, it's unclear if he accepted further suspension in the 2014 regular season (update: he will reportedly be suspended an undisclosed amount of time to start the regular season).
I'm unsure of what, if anything, in the body of evidence changed from the NFL's point of view over the past few months, but from Browner's point of view, what has to be most frustrating about all this is the fact that his original appeal of the suspension, sans the winnable threat of legal action, was flatly rejected.
Still, Browner issued a statement, accepting responsibility for his actions while offering a conciliatory tone for Roger Goodell:
I received wonderful news today. The NFL has reinstated me, and I now have the opportunity to prove to the fans and my teammates how important this sport is to me. I realize now more than ever that being part of the NFL is not a right, but a privilege. I am grateful that Commissioner Goodell and my agent were able to resolve this issue in a positive, productive manner so I can continue my career, provide for my family, and help my team win a Super Bowl. Thank you to all who have gone out of their way to show their support. I will live up to your expectations of me.
From this, I take it that Browner just wants to get back to ball, and move past this whole situation.
Peter Schaffer, Browner's agent, said that Browner is clear to participate in OTAs, preseason, 'and beyond', but as stated, we'll be waiting to see if Browner will face a suspension at the beginning of the season (update: he will). This could certainly still hurt his earning power, though obviously reinstatement right now helps because it allows him to sign with, practice, and train with a team, then take part in OTAs and preseason games before serving a regular season suspension.
What does this mean for the Seahawks? We shall see. I would speculate that Seattle may offer Browner a new contract at somewhere around the veteran minimum, likely viewing him as a potential piece of quality depth on the outside and as someone that can provide some flexibility should another of their corners get hurt. With Byron Maxwell's ability to play inside, an injury to one of Seattle's nickel corners (right now just Jeremy Lane) could mean Maxwell could kick inside, with relief by Browner outside.
I don't believe that Maxwell would relinquish his starting job as Seattle's RCB were Browner to re-sign with Seattle, but he could certainly find himself on the field in certain situations and would definitely be a quality backup and veteran leader. He was a founding member of the LOB and made a Pro Bowl in his first season with the club, he's extremely respected by his teammates by all accounts, and he brings a punishing, intimidating and intense persona to the field.
Browner's physical tackling is reminiscent of some linebackers, and while it's probably a long shot and projecting wildly, it makes me wonder if in some crazy world, he could play a role as a hybrid backup corner and backup strong safety. Now, generally speaking, I think one of the reasons that Browner has had success in the NFL as a corner on the outside is that he can use the sideline so well and his length and punch helps him re-direct receivers at the line -- and these two factors are pretty much negated at the safety position. Still, Browner played safety for the Broncos as a rookie, impressed there, so he has a little experience, and certainly has the size for it. He's not a fluid mover in space, but given the right role as a box-defender, it's something to consider. The Seahawks have moved backup safety DeShawn Shead back and forth from safety to cornerback and back to safety, and it's a common practice for older corners to move to safety after losing some of their speed, so it's at worst an interesting thought, and I only bring it up because Seattle's depth at safety is not great right now.
Oh, you may know, adding value, Browner also plays special teams.
It might all be moot. He may find greener pastures and a bigger contract elsewhere. Moreso, Seattle may look to get younger at the cornerback position and move forward with Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane, and look to develop Akeem Auguste, Tharold Simon, and others. They may spend Browner's money trying to re-sign Walter Thurmond.
At this point, though, much depends on whether or not Browner must serve a suspension at the beginning of the year (update: he will be suspended to start the regular season). I'd say it would be most likely that he'd be signed by Jacksonville or possibly the Jets if he can start immediately, but when you're talking about a guy that is likely one mistake away from another long suspension after missing the first four games of the year, you're talking about a guy that probably doesn't have much, if any, leverage in contract talks.