The cornerback was reinstated by the league on Wednesday, but he will have to serve a four-game unpaid suspension and also forfeit four more game checks if he is on a team in 2014.
The four-game ban is certainly fair – after all, he tested positive for drug use (reportedly marijuana). But the suspension obviously will affect his value in free agency, which begins March 11.
Odds seem pretty good that Browner will not be signed until after the draft – if at all -- and that he likely will have to settle for a one-year deal for the veteran minimum ($730,000 in his case). It is hard to see a team taking a chance on giving him any signing bonus or multi-year deal when he is just one strike away from an indefinite suspension.
It will be interesting to see whether the Seahawks consider re-signing the 29-year-old, letting him rejoin the Legion of Boom he helped make so famous. The Hawks probably wouldn't even entertain the idea until right before training camp in July – if Browner remains unsigned and the Hawks think he could be of use starting in Week 5.
It seems doubtful that the Hawks would be interested, especially because this is Browner's second four-game suspension – he tested positive for a PED in 2012 – and he is one misstep away from being banned for at least a year.
The only reason Browner got off this lightly is that he had a good case against the NFL and was prepared to sue for reinstatement.
Several corroborating reports indicate he was in the league's drug program in 2006 when the Denver Broncos cut him. But he fell off the NFL grid when he went to Canada and played in the CFL from 2007 to 2010. Missed tests with the NFL during that time counted against him, and he was therefore placed in Stage 3 of the league's program when he signed with the Seahawks in 2011.
A positive test while in Stage 3 results in an indefinite suspension, which is what he received in December when he reportedly turned down the league's offer to allow him to return after eight games next season.
But as Browner and his agent prepared to sue the league based on those extenuating circumstances, the NFL decided to broker a deal more acceptable to Browner, who now at least has a chance to hook on with a team – even if it is for the minimum and even if he will make only half of it while missing a quarter of the 2014 season.