Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis had a well-known fascination with trying to acquire former first-round draft picks from other teams if they became available.
According to New York Giants safety Stevie Brown, Brandon Meriweather’s name can be added to a lengthy list.
Brown sought answers after being cut by the Raiders in the 2011 preseason following a productive rookie campaign as a special-teams player and defensive reserve. From what he heard “through the grapevine,” the late Davis had made the move while hoping to sign Meriweather as a free agent following his release by New England.
Davis didn’t get his man – and lost Brown in the process.
Chicago outbid Oakland and Denver, among other interested Meriweather suitors, with a lofty one-year, $3.25 million contract offer. Brown was claimed off waivers by Carolina, released almost immediately afterward and then signed with Indianapolis two weeks later for the rest of the 2011 campaign.
“I heard that Davis wanted to get Meriweather so I got let go,” Brown told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “After that didn’t happen, my (Raiders) secondary and special-teams coaches had called me about possibly coming back but I was in Carolina now. Even when I got let go in Carolina and we talked again, they said they would try and talk to Al about bringing me back but I guess he was just set in his ways.”
Just like with discarded Oakland guard-turned-Giants starter Kevin Boothe, a Raiders loss ultimately became New York’s gain. Brown also has proven a more productive player the past one-and-a-half seasons than Meriweather, who bombed with the Bears and has yet to play this season in Washington because of knee problems.
Injuries in New York’s secondary gave Brown the chance to make an impact and he has taken full advantage. Starting at strong safety the past three games in place of Kenny Phillips (knee), Brown has registered interception returns of 46 and 41 yards. He toted a Cam Newton interception 44 yards playing as a backup in a Week 3 rout of Carolina and produced a fumble return against Cleveland on special teams, where Brown ranks second on the team in tackles with seven.
With Phillips missing practice time again this week, Brown will likely get another chance to start Sunday in the FOX America’s Game of the Week against the host Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET).
Brown said the high standard to which all members of the Giants secondary are held explains why New York’s defense has weathered constant shuffling because of injuries.
“Everybody here feels like a starter. That’s one thing I definitely like around here,” Brown said. “Whenever anybody new goes in, it’s like, ‘Know your role and responsibility to the team. Don’t think negatively. Just do it.’ It’s the approach everybody takes when they’re on the field.”
Brown managed to stay positive throughout a tumultuous second NFL season. A 2010 seventh-round pick from the University of Michigan, Brown bounced on and off Oakland’s practice squad as a rookie but did appear in 15 games with one start. He also became a core special-teams player.
While his Raiders release may not have been completely shocking since Davis had changed head coaches yet again, Brown admits he was stunned about how short his three-day stint was with the Panthers.
When he first arrived, Brown said Carolina coaches explained he would become part of the team’s nickel packages as a third safety. By the end of the week, Brown was told he was being cut because the Panthers had a more pressing need at cornerback.
“I was the last man on the team so I was the first one that had to go,” Brown said. “That whole experience really taught me the business side of the game.”
Another lesson was learned this offseason in Indianapolis. Brown was a special-teams contributor last year before landing on injured reserve (quadriceps). Brown said the Colts former braintrust told him they wanted him back in 2012. That changed when Bill and Chris Polian were dismissed following the season.
“The new regime was kind of like, ‘We’re not opposed to bringing you back, but we’re allowing you to shop around,’” Brown said.
Brown did just that, visiting the Cincinnati Bengals before taking his fateful visit to meet with the Giants. He signed with New York in April and appears on track to forging a long career with the franchise like Boothe, another promising Raiders rookie starter who was cut following a head coaching change.
“I loved everything about the trip,” Brown said. “When I talked to everybody around here, you could tell they all genuinely cared about each other. Everybody wants to win a championship and they have a track record of doing that.”
So did the Raiders until they began making too many bad personnel decisions in Davis’ final years running the organization. That includes whiffing on a promising young talent like Brown.