WR Reggie Brown averaged 50 receptions per year over his first three seasons with the Eagles
Reggie Brown first entered the NFL as part of the 2005 NFL Draft class, which included a total of 31 wide receivers. Also in Brown's class were the likes of Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mark Clayton, Roddy White, Roscoe Parrish, Vincent Jackson and Brandon Jones.
Brown, a fast and precise pass-catcher out of Georgia, went seventh among those 31 receivers, right after White and right before Mark Bradley, who is now a teammate with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Brown with the third pick of the second round, #35 overall.
A glance at the numbers indicates that the Eagles got good value out of that pick, at least in terms of Brown's accomplishments in relation to his fellow '05 receivers. Five years later, he is the fifth-leading receiver out of that class.
White, then and now an Atlanta Falcon and the 27th player drafted overall, leads the group with 315 receptions for 4,689 yards and 27 touchdowns. Braylon Edwards, the third overall selection that year, moved from the Cleveland Browns to the New York Jets last season but is still second on the list, with a line of 273-4,238-32. Baltimore's Mark Clayton, the 22nd selection, is next with a 234-3,116-12 line, San Diego's Vincent Jackson follows with 198-3,400-25, and then there is Brown with 177 grabs for 2,574 yards and 17 scores.
On Monday evening, Brown was traded by the Eagles to the Buccaneers in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft. That relatively affordable price is a product not of Brown's overall accomplishments in five seasons, but of the last two years, during which he has caught just 27 passes for 407 yards and one score.
The Buccaneers, who have had a favorable impression of Brown since his fine showing in the 2005 Senior Bowl, believe Brown is still the player he was from that date through the 2007 campaign.
"He was a very productive player his first three years while he had the opportunity," said Tampa Bay General Manager Mark Dominik, who engineered the deal over the first weekend of the free agency period. "He's a very consistent route-runner, and that's an important element of what we want to do here, offensively and philosophically. We felt like he had not lost any speed in his game. He's still a competitive player."
Indeed, Brown compared even more favorably to the rest of his draft class through 2007. At that point, he had essentially been a three-year starter and had produced 150 receptions for 2,167 yards and 16 scores. Only Edwards (173) and Clayton (159) had more catches to that point; only Edwards (2,635) had more yards or touchdowns (25).
So why the downturn over the last two seasons? The Buccaneers hope it was just a matter of opportunity. The Eagles drafted DeSean Jackson in the second round after Brown's third year and then added Jeremy Maclin in the first round a year ago. Jackson immediately emerged as one of the NFL's top big-play threats, Maclin showed first-year promise as well and 2006 draftee Jason Avant began to emerge.
Of course, it's worth noting that when Brown was included in the offense he was still able to stretch the field. Though he caught only nine passes last year, Brown averaged 17.2 yards per grab, similar to his average of 17.7 over 46 catches in 2006. Overall, he has an excellent career mark of 14.5 yards per reception during his NFL career.
The Buccaneers want to give him that opportunity. They've certainly encountered good fortune trading for offensive players who had fallen out of favor to some degree with their previous teams - Kellen Winslow, Joey Galloway, Brian Griese and Thomas Jones to name a few from recent franchise history. And, like any team, the Bucs have found other players along the way who simply needed a new situation in order to fully realize their capabilities; Jimmy Wilkerson, Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan come to mind.
"We felt like a change of scenery for him could really help, as it does for a lot of players in the National Football League," said Dominik. "We've had a lot of success with that over the years within the organization. We felt like this was another opportunity for a player to get a new bead on his career and get himself back on track. We think Reggie can do that here in Tampa."