After a 2019 season that was among the roughest of his 13-year NFL career, Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown took to Twitter to deliver a message of thanks for making it through, and a vow for what he hoped was ahead.
“Time to get the body right, then it’s back to the grind,” Brown tweeted in January after the Seahawks’ playoff loss to Green Bay.
The message ended speculation about Brown’s immediate future. A biceps injury forced him to miss two games in 2019, and he underwent late-season knee surgery that cost him three more.
Brown made it back for the Packers game, which coach Pete Carroll called “unbelievable.”
But it was a frustrating ending to one of the more frustrating seasons of Brown’s career, which has included four Pro Bowls.
It’s evident this season that Brown did indeed get his body right. He has returned to being one of the most dominant left tackles in football.
According to Pro Football Focus, Brown is having one of his best seasons — his grade of 88.4 is the second-highest of his career (the only one higher came in 2012 when he earned first-team All-Pro honors). PFF this week named him to its NFC Pro Bowl team with Trent Williams of Washington and David Bakhtiari of Green Bay at tackle.
“He’s the heartbeat of the offensive line,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of Brown.
One that hasn’t wavered all season.
In fact, though every other starting position on the offensive line has had to undergo change at least once this year, the 35-year-old Brown has started every game and played 98.1% of the snaps.
Brown has credited yoga and more stretching as a key to getting and staying healthy.
“Instead of just going and doing bench press, squats, power cleans, I’m working in smaller muscle groups,” Brown said this year. “And working in flexibility in between my lifts to stretch my muscles out.”
He also credits the Seahawks for giving him regular days off from practice to rest his knee.
“It’s been great to be able to take some miles off my body,” he said.
It’s a season that would seem to all but assure Brown will be back in 2021, the last year on his contract with Seattle.
Brown signed a new deal with the Seahawks in 2018 after being acquired from Houston the previous October.
The contract features the common Seahawks structure of having the salary-cap hit backloaded, but also with an out that would save a lot of cap.
In Brown’s case, he has a $13 million cap hit for 2021, third only behind the $32 million of quarterback Russell Wilson and $17.1 million of linebacker Bobby Wagner.
But of that, only $2 million is dead cap space, meaning Seattle could save $11 million by releasing Brown, the biggest potential cap savings on the team other than the $14.1 million of recently acquired defensive end Carlos Dunlap II.
The health issues of a year ago and his age make it easy to speculate that Brown could be a cap casualty in 2021. The Seahawks will face the usual array of tough offseason personnel decisions, and the added challenge of a cap that may drop to $175 million from $198.2 million because of lower revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Pro Bowl left tackles are tough to find, as Seattle learned when Russell Okung was not re-signed after the 2015 season. That eventually led to the trade for Brown in 2017.
So the Seahawks almost certainly will want Brown to hang around.
And Brown indicated Thursday when he spoke with media via Zoom that he wants to keep playing. He added that he’s never set goals on career length.
“I’m just taking it year by year,” Brown said. “I don’t want to put a number on it. I don’t want to tell my body when it’s time to shut it down. I’ve got a strong feeling about you tell yourself this many years and your body listens to you. You know it will shut it down around that time. I’m just enjoying it. I’m enjoying each and every Sunday, and enjoying each and every year, and that’s just all I’m concerned with right now.”
Illustrative of Brown’s still-high zeal for the game came in the third quarter of Sunday’s 40-3 win over the Jets.
After a Russell Wilson 10-yard touchdown pass to Will Dissly made it 30-3, Brown raced into the end zone to celebrate. Dissly handed the ball to Brown, and the resulting spike appeared as dangerously close to leaving a dent in the turf.
“I thought that was stellar,” Carroll said. “The ball never came down. I never saw it land. Some people said it’s still going up.”
Brown joked Thursday that the spike “got a lot of attention (from teammates and others) I didn’t want. But it’s all good.
“ … It’s rare (as a lineman) to run that far to go celebrate. So I was just kind of excited, and Will kind of sought me out and handed me the ball. (Offensive lineman) Jordan Simmons had spiked the ball, I think it was against the Vikings, and it was subpar. So I was just trying to show how it was done.”