Malcom Brown signs three-year, $15 million deal with New Orleans

His departure isn’t a surprise, but leaves the Patriots with work to do on their defensive line.

Malcolm Brown
After Kyle Van Noy recovered a second-quarter fumble, he celebrated with defensive teammates Donta' Hightower, Elandon Roberts, and Malcolm Brown. –Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the latest free agent to leave the Patriots, signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Saints, according to a league source.

Brown had a good sense as free agency approached that there was likely to be more money available if he left New England. The Patriots drafted the 6-2, 320-pounder in the first round in 2015, but declined to pick up his fifth-year option last offseason. Brown was still a big piece of the defensive line, playing 44 percent of the defensive snaps, mostly as a space eater on first and second downs.

Brown does have some pass-rushing ability for a big guy, with 8.5 sacks over his four seasons in the NFL, and may get better production in a different scheme.

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His departure isn’t a surprise, but leaves the Patriots with work to do on their defensive line with Danny Shelton still a free agent. Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are the top defensive tackles currently on the roster, with Ufomba Kamalu, Frank Herron, and David Parry filling out New England’s depth.

The Patriots did have former Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey in for a visit Thursday as they explore options to round out the group that just lost Brown.