Redskins linebacker Zach Brown is excited to return to Washington to continue to be close to home, build chemistry on defense and leave his mark on the franchise.
Just as head coach Jay Gruden stressed continuity when it came to retaining his coaching staff this offseason, he knew the importance of returning players at key positions, too.
As free agency settled into its third day, the Redskins ensured that the middle of its defense would remain a place of strength, re-signing linebacker Zach Brown on Friday to a reported multi-year deal and quelling some of Gruden's nerves that his leading tackler from last year might not be back.
"We were getting a little nervous here, everybody's getting ready to sign and Zach was holding out on us, but we're glad to have Zach back, obviously have him in a second year in this system is very important," Gruden said. "I think he'll be a lot more comfortable and I think Coach Manusky will know what we have and get Mason Foster next to him making the calls and helping them out and I think it's a great fit and we love the speed, love his athleticism, getting him back here for another year is important to our defense."
The new deal quelled Brown's worry as well. Entering his third offseason as a free agent -- after signing consecutive one-year contracts – Brown now feels as though he can finally take a sigh of relief, staying put on a team close to family and boasting fans with whom he developed sincere relationships.
"It feels good, you know, I'm staying home, back with the team," Brown said. "We already got the chemistry here with a lot of the guys on the defense, you know we got to bring in some other pieces to try and win this championship but you know, right now it feels good, it feels real good."
In 13 games last season, Brown collected 127 tackles, finishing in the Top-10 in the league in that category, along with 2.5 sacks and two passes defensed. The South Carolina native and Columbia, Md., high school graduate quickly became an integral part of the defense, taking on a leadership role as he managed through the onslaught of injuries that occurred around him.
Before an Achilles heel injury took him out of the final three games of the season, Brown had become a natural fan favorite, weathering the storm of substitute players joining the defense each week.
"What we went through last year was really challenging for us because everybody was getting hurt, but it gave the younger guys more chances to play," Brown said. "So now all of that, rookies, we had a lot of rookies playing and now they're used to the speed, used to the game, they know what to except so now we just got to make sure we grow and keep going because the sky is the limit because we're so young.
"The team, the defense, [defensive coordinator] Greg Manusky, he put me in the right position to make plays and I'm sitting here saying, 'Hey, I'm coming for the top linebacker spot,' because for me, I feel like I'm the best linebacker in the game," Brown added. "So just to stay here with the Redskins, and I got Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen, D.J. Swearinger and then I got Josh Norman and everybody else on the defense so, we believe we do our part and Alex Smith and them will do their part."
Last year, Brown didn't sign with the Redskins until April, nearly a month after free agency had started. Re-signing, especially so early in Washington, was a way of giving back to the team that gave him a chance to prove himself – now rightfully considered a mutually beneficial decision.
"I must say everybody was a man of their word in the building, so for me, it's easy for me to give my all for people that tell you the truth and to come back and finish out my career and re-sign with them," Brown said. "Hopefully we'll be together for a long time, like them and London Fletcher. So for me, I'm trying to be here for the long run and I think they know that."