Vicksburg native Ben Brown caps chaotic NFL season by signing with Raiders

Published 4:00 am Sunday, January 28, 2024

For the final month of the 2023 NFL season, Ben Brown had an exciting weekly routine. He’d finish a workout, head home, pack a bag, and then wait for the phone to ring to find out what part of the country he’d be flying to.

“It would be a Thursday and my agent would call me and say, ‘Hey man, are you close to an airport? You’ve got a workout with the Jets tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. They already booked you a flight that takes off in three hours,’” said Brown, a Vicksburg native who played college football at Ole Miss. “I’m taking off to the Memphis airport and sprinting to the plane. That was basically my life for four weeks.”

It was the final stage of a wild and crazy season for the former St. Aloysius High School and Ole Miss offensive lineman. He was on the roster of three different NFL teams, released twice, and played in his first regular-season game.

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Now that it’s over, things are settling down a bit and he’s got a new opportunity. Brown signed a futures/reserve contract with the Las Vegas Raiders on Jan. 16. The deal puts him on the team’s 90-man roster for offseason training activities, training camp and the preseason and will give him a chance to make their roster next season.

After his chaotic 2023 season, Brown said he was relieved to find a team.

“It’s definitely a big relief. I did have some options to go to some other places, which is a great problem to have. Tough decisions have to be made,” Brown said. “The biggest thing for me is I wanted to go somewhere I had a chance to make the roster. For someone like me who’s fighting for a roster spot you really want to try to find a place where there are less players at your position. The numbers were more appealing in Vegas than anywhere else I had a futures opportunity to pursue.”

Brown’s 2023 season started in Cincinnati, hit a high and low point in Seattle, and finished in Arizona before he landed with Las Vegas.

Brown was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022. He spent that season on injured reserve, and was eventually released at the end of the 2023 preseason. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks a few days later and was quickly promoted to their 53-man active roster.

Brown made his NFL debut against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 24, playing in two series at right guard as well as on special teams in a 37-27 Seahawks victory.

The good times didn’t last long, though. He was waived by the Seahawks and then re-signed to the practice squad in October, then released outright on Nov. 26.

“I sat down and spoke with the GM and with (head coach Pete Carroll) some. They told me it was a numbers thing for them. They had a tackle come off IR and they signed (veteran offensive lineman) Jason Peters to the 53-man roster, so it was a really crowded room at that point,” Brown said. “They had told me I could have a futures deal back there if I wanted to, but ultimately the Raiders’ numbers were too good to pass up on.”

Getting released a few days after Thanksgiving was a low point, Brown admitted.

“It was not a fun conversation to have,” he said.

He soon found encouragement, however, with his December routine of tryouts. Nearly the entire month he was getting calls and tryouts with teams, including the Raiders, who were both looking for late-season roster help and casting an eye toward their 2024 rosters. On New Year’s Day, before the final game of the season, the Arizona Cardinals signed Brown to their practice squad with what he believes was the latter in mind.

“I think Arizona signed me because they also wanted me to sign a futures deal with them. I think that was their way to try and recruit me,” he said.

Coincidentally, the Cardinals’ season finale was against his former team the Seahawks. Seattle also played Cincinnati earlier in the season when Brown was still with the team, which was a quirk that he found funny.

“What was so crazy about this year was not only the uncertainty of not being on a team for a month and being all over the country, what I found amusing was that I played against every single team I was with this year,” he said. “That’s how crazy the NFL is. One week you can be somewhere with a team that you may have been with a couple months like I was with Seattle, and the next week you can be playing against them.”

Brown’s stint with the Cardinals only lasted the one week. His contract, along with all of the other players on the team’s practice squad, expired after the season concluded. That made him a free agent, and when teams started to fill out their offseason rosters by offering reserve/futures contracts there were several offers on the table. The Raiders, Brown said, were the best fit based off of how their roster looks heading into the offseason.

“It’s definitely been a crazy and chaotic year. A lot of uncertainty that’s been tied with it. I’m just very thankful to have my roots planted, at least for the offseason and training camp and preseason, with the Raiders,” Brown said.

Brown was also thankful to his wife, Juliana, and his family for their support during a chaotic year that took them from one side of the country to the other and back again. Including their time in Oxford in December, the Browns lived in three different states in a span of four months.

“Essentially we’ve been living out of the suitcase for the entire year. It’s been rough. But my wife and my family have been extremely supportive of it,” Brown said. “It’s been rough on all of them. It’s been very tough navigating my career, especially this year with so many moving parts. But they were all very supportive of me going to where was best for me to further my career. Having my wife and family support me through all of this … it would have been impossible to do without that.”

The Browns are back in Mississippi for the moment, but will be on the move again soon enough as they embark for Las Vegas. The Raiders will begin their OTAs in April, and training camp in July. Before that, Brown plans to return to Oxford for a while to train at Ole Miss’ facilities with some of his old college teammates.

Having an extended break at the end of the season is always a little awkward, Brown said.

“It’s always weird going from the grind of preseason and the season itself, because you’re going every single day. There’s never a day off unless it’s a bye week,” he said. “You’re going all day long, all morning long, you’re studying at home and constantly, ‘Football, football, football.’ Then boom, the offseason hits and there are no responsibilities other than don’t do anything dumb, number one, and number two be ready to roll when OTAs happen.”

Brown will be ready. Heading into the third year of his NFL career he’s trying to not only make an impression, but make a roster and cement his place in the league. Whatever the future holds, Brown said, he’s grateful for what he’s already gotten.

Besides the roster moves, Brown has grown from a three-star recruit at St. Al to a four-year Southeastern Conference starter at Ole Miss. He’s had two seasons end because of a torn biceps tendon and returned to make an NFL roster. He’s played in an NFL game.

All of those are good things no one can ever take away, and he isn’t losing sight of that even when the path gets a little rocky.

“No matter what the journey looks like, no matter how bad you think it is, I think it’s always good to take a step back and be grateful for what all you have,” Brown said. “I had a whole month that I was not on a team and it was very upsetting and it was hard on me, my wife and my family. But I really had to take a step back and have some gratitude for the journey that I’ve had so far.

“I’ve suffered three torn bicep tendons and I’m still playing. I might not have been on a team for a month but I still had the opportunity to keep going,” he continued. “Even if I didn’t have any more opportunities, I took it all in and looked at what God had done for and how He has paved the way in my life regardless of if football is over or not. I had to have a gracious heart and know that I had had the opportunities up to that point. That I’m still able to pursue my dream with the support of all of my family just makes it even better. Now I have one more opportunity to suit up the pads and play in the NFL.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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