Welcome to the world of the Antonio Brown Sweepstakes, where business is sure to be booming.
Upon the completion of a face-to-face meeting with Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II on Tuesday, Antonio Brown (now Mr. Big Chest) has been granted what appeared to be his greatest wish since late December – the opportunity to play for another franchise. While the organization agreed it was best for the two sides to mutually part ways, Brown and agent Drew Rosenhaus have not been granted permission to speak with other teams. This gives the Steelers and General Manager Kevin Colbert the opportunity to steer trade talks in a direction that is most beneficial for the franchise.
Had a great meeting with Mr.Rooney today we discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues! We both agreed that it is time to move on but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and @steelers organization! #CallGod #Boomin pic.twitter.com/DEgURchvhW
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 19, 2019
With the Steelers in full control of Brown’s next destination, we take a look at the five most likely suitors for Brown’s services, as well as some of the pros and cons of what “Mr. Big Chest” coming on board means for their locker room.
1. San Francisco 49ers
This should be the least shocking and most probable pick on most writers’ list. Brown has already publicly flirted with the franchise and is said to have a very close relationship with San Francisco legend Jerry Rice. The 49ers have a young core that is on the verge of turning a corner with Jimmy Garoppolo cemented as the future of the team’s offense. They’re stout up front and possess a duo of running backs that may not set the world on fire, but create decent production when healthy. The only thing missing is the Robin to Jimmy GQ’s Batman. Brown would instantly create a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses with youngsters Marquise Goodwin and George Kittle eating up additional resources.
San Francisco announced this week they are moving on from veteran wide receiver Pierre Garcon, which leaves the 49ers with a very underwhelming core of receivers outside of Goodwin. With the team likely taking an edge pass rusher in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, a trade for Brown makes sense especially being in the NFC where the Steelers appear to be interested in trading Brown. What makes a trade difficult is the lack of draft capital the 49ers own outside of that first-round pick. They’re most certainly not giving up the second-overall selection for a player on the wrong side of 30, and only have picks in four other rounds in 2019.
2. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were not a team many expected to be in the playoff hunt in 2018-19. Not only did they find a way to punch their ticket to the postseason, they even added a playoff win which should act as a catalyst heading into the off-season. Indy clearly needed an additional passing threat to go with T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron, and they have more cap than any other team that was in or near the playoffs last season. The only problem when you have money to blow is when there are not assets worth blowing money on. The wide receiver market is light and cluttered with veteran retreads like Golden Tate, so spending the guaranteed money on Brown would be a non-issue. Furthermore, the Colts have the draft capital to invest. They picked up a second-round pick last year sliding back three spots in the first round, giving them six total selections before the end of the fourth round.
Oh, and let’s not rule out a possible reunion with Le’Veon Bell as a bonus point. The Colts have been rumored to be interested in that bidding war as well.
The trouble with Brown going to Indianapolis is two-fold.
First, being a fellow member of the AFC will likely make the Steelers less willing to take a Colts-friendly offer. In addition to that, the Colts structure isn’t conducive to a personality like Brown’s. With Luck’s “Beaver Cleaver” outlook, it could make for friction early on that would be counterproductive.
3. Oakland Raiders
Oh Chucky, what mystical roster management wisdom will you shower us with this off-season?
A marriage with an equally unpredictable Brown could be the rabbit stuffed in his top hat. Oakland has more draft capital than anyone on this list and with a move to Sin City in the near future, they need a superstar with a recognizable face to plaster all over their season ticket sales collateral. Gruden was quoted last season when talking about no. 84, calling Brown “the hardest working player I’ve ever seen,” so it would seem he respects Brown at least from a football perspective.
The water begins to get murky once you consider the moves Oakland has made thus far under Gruden. Every move prior to the beginning of the 2018 season would lead one to think that the organization is full-speed ahead on the rebuild. Would Gruden and recently hired General Manager Mike Mayock risk missing out on one or more “Gruden Guys” in efforts to bring Brown’s production to the Black Hole? Time will tell.
4. Detroit Lions
2018 was one of Matthew Stafford’s worst seasons on record. After trading away their only tangible receiving asset in Tate at the deadline last season, the Lions were completely barren of wide receiver talent. Roll the clocks back five or six years, and you can see what Stafford is capable of with a competent number one to throw to.
Like the 49ers, the Lions reside in the NFC which makes them a more likely candidate of receiving a realistic price for Brown. As far as Brown’s antics, they proved they are willing to accommodate larger than life personalities after being rumored to have inquired about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski prior to the 2018 season.
The question becomes whether or not Detroit and second-year head coach Matt Patricia are willing to sacrifice filling much-needed gaps elsewhere on the roster in favor of bringing Brown in via trade. Their draft capital is lacking, and trading what little they have for the aging star wide-out would cripple rebuilding efforts for at least one more year. A year they may not be able to afford to waste with Stafford turning 31 this month.
5. New York Jets
Let’s face it, Brown’s personality screams New York. “Big Apple Brown” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
The bottom line in New York is this – Get Sam Darnold some weapons.
The second-year quarterback had moments where he looked the part of a top-five pick, but ultimately was bogged down due to a lacking arsenal. Adding Brown to a depleted receiving core in Metlife Stadium would instantly give Darnold a cruise missile that defenses must scheme for. The Jets also have a boatload of cap space which would give them the ability to come up with the guaranteed money Brown wants. Couple this with another possible destination for a revenge tour with Bell and New York starts becoming a much more realistic landing spot for both former Steelers.
The problem with the Jets like many other teams that are cap-capable going into 2019 is their conference. The Steelers have already publicly said they will not trade Brown to any AFC North rival or the Patriots, so it would only make sense that they would listen to every possible offer from teams in the NFC before considering a trade in the AFC. Moreso than that, the Jets and new head coach Adam Gase would have to determine that Brown’s production and talent outweigh the chance of his attitude rubbing off on a young, impressionable quarterback.