Duane Brown is the second-oldest Seahawk at 34, entering his 13th NFL season in a career in which he has established himself as one of the best left tackles of his generation. But he’s also coming off a season in which injuries took their toll, and he has a contract situation that puts him at risk of being a salary-cap casualty a year from now.
But if any of that seems like a harsh way of viewing things, Brown long ago accepted what everyone in the NFL learns eventually.
“It’s a business,’’ Brown said. “… I’ve been in this long enough to know that. I don’t take anything personal.’’
That’s how he views the changes the Seahawks made to their offensive line this offseason, cutting veterans Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker and letting Germain Ifedi and George Fant walk in free agency, meaning that the Seahawks could have three new starters on their offensive line in 2020 — with Brown starting again at left tackle about the only sure thing.
“You had a lot of decisions that had to be made,’’ Brown said. “You had a couple of guys that were entering free agency, could be salary-cap casualties. That’s a lot that goes on. … I’ll miss the guys that are no longer here.’’
But as Brown also noted during a Zoom video call with media that cover the Seahawks Wednesday, “everyone landed on their feet’’ with Fluker (Ravens), Ifedi (Bears) and Fant (Jets) signing new deals where each could be immediate starters, while Britt is still in rehab mode from a knee injury suffered last October.
Brown knows well he could be facing a question about his future a year from now. He has two years left on his contract, but next season comes as most of Seattle’s major deals do, with the potential for big cap savings in its final year. Of Brown’s $13 million cap hit in 2021, just $2 million is dead money, meaning Seattle could save $11 million releasing him.
As for his future? Brown says it’s a topic for another day.
“Nah, I don’t think about it too much,’’ he said of how long he might want to play. “I tell myself I don’t want to put a number on when I want to walk away. I’m enjoying it.”
For now, he says what’s on his mind is “you’ve just got to be ready to go.’’
That’s more challenging than ever in an offseason with severe restrictions in place for NFL teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usually, Brown would be in Renton these days helping lead in-person meetings with new teammates such as right tackle Brandon Shell, center B.J. Finney and other newcomers who could emerge as starters in 2020, and taking part in on-field Organized Team Activities.
Instead, Brown is relegated to virtual meetings and phone calls and text exchanges to try to get to know Seattle’s new players in a position group in which teamwork and on-field communication might be as vital as any.
“The thing about it is, every team is dealing with it,’’ Brown said.
So Brown’s message to the younger players is another basic one he learned long ago: Control what you can control and leave the worrying about what will happen with the NFL season to others.
For Brown, that means switching up his offseason conditioning to account for both advancing age and the injuries he dealt with last season. Brown missed two games in the midseason due to a biceps injury. He then missed three more at the end of the year — including the wild-card playoff win at Philadelphia — with a knee injury on which he had arthroscopic surgery before he returned to play against Green Bay in the divisional game.
Carroll called it “an unbelievable thing’’ that Brown played 20 days after surgery, saying, “I don’t know how he did it.’’
The good news is that Brown did not suffer any additional injury in coming back to play, saying Wednesday he did not need any more work done to the knee in the offseason. He also said he didn’t need any work done on the biceps injury.
He said each seems to be coming around fine, while noting that even if the team had been on the field right now he almost certainly would not have been, instead waiting for training camp to do any significant football work to continue to heal.
But Brown — who had never before missed as many games in his NFL career due to injury — said his goal this year is to stay as healthy as he can, and because of that he is making some significant changes to his conditioning routine. Specifically, he said “being more flexible, working on my hips, more, more body maintenance, being more proactive about my body than in years past.’’
Brown says to do that he’s added yoga and stretching three times a day for 15-20 minutes each instead of just doing a lot of power lifting.
“Instead of just going and doing bench press, squats, power cleans, I’m working in smaller muscle groups and working in flexibility in between my lifts to stretch my muscles out,’’ he said.
All for what he hopes will be a season that, as much as possible, will feel the same as previous ones.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,’’ Brown said. “But we’re all competitors, we’re professionals. We’ll get it done.’’