What’s Brown looking for?
Antonio Brown requested a chance to be traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Jason La Canfora. This, of course, sent the NFL world into a whirlwind of speculation.
Before looking at potential landing spots for AB, let’s take a look at the mess that has preceded this request.
La Canfora said in his tweet that this was not a demand, but that Brown asked to be dealt. The culture of the Steelers seems to be in a state of turmoil. The team is divided with Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger on one side and Brown on the other.
In a way, the divide reared its’ head all season long as Brown had up and down games. Brown often seemed to not be on the same page with Big Ben.
At the start of December, Brown had the highest uncatchable target rate percentage of 28.9% . He had 35 targets that were deemed uncatchable according to NFL network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala. This speaks to that notion of not seeing eye-to-eye.
Happy New Year. Be great. pic.twitter.com/QLna1LRncL— Antonio Brown (@AB84) January 2, 2019
Let’s flashback to Week 17, the infamous season finale.
Brown was listed as questionable. and ultimately didn’t play due to a “coach’s decision.” Later, the situation was described as Brown not attending practices as well as missing the walk through Saturday. During the last practice AB attended, he, apparently, threw a ball in the direction of Big Ben and left practice. He showed up Sunday expecting to play, but the coaching staff did not allow this to happen.
Now, they are at a point of no return seemingly.
With his recent trade request and the issues in Pittsburgh, here are some potential landing spots for Brown:
Down by the Bay
The 49ers have a solid corps of wide receivers. Most notably, the flier in Marquise Goodwin who has speed that is comparable to Tyreek Hill. Dante Pettis is an up-and-coming talent that stepped up when Goodwin went down with an injury. Then there is the man that started it all in George Kittle.
Kittle is a big and powerful tight end who just set the record for receiving yards in a season. The 49ers will also have Jimmy Garappolo at quarterback after losing him early in 2018.
This team is a Super Bowl contender next year if their best players can stay healthy in Jimmy G and Jerick McKinnon. Considering the bread crumbs Brown is dropping from tweeting back at Kittle and recently following the 49ers on Twitter, it seems that Brown wants to show his dominance in the area that the Niners are definitely the weakest. He could be switching those long sleeves for a cut off in the sunshine state.
Young, Dumb, and (Not) Broke
Another team that has a lot of potential interest in Brown is the New York Jets. They have a lot of available salary cap space.
While Quincy Enunwa was a viable option for Sam Darnold, he seems to be injury prone and not able to break coverage like a number one guy. Robby Anderson stepped it up, but is more of a deep threat. Both had their moments, but are hardly world beaters.
Anderson led the team in yards with 752 on 50 receptions while Enunwa finished second with 449 yards on 38 receptions. Chris Herndon was a surprise at tight end as he finished with 502 yards. Each of these guys could benefit from the presence of Brown.
Eclipsing 1,000 yards isn’t an issue for Brown as he has only been held below that mark twice (2010 and 2012). That type of productivity will help Darnold and the Jets offense reach newer heights. Especially in scramble drill plays where AB makes a living.
Potential for Growth
The Buffalo Bills is another landing spot for Brown. This team has a lot of salary cap space and are in dire need of a top guy.
After cutting ties with Kelvin Benjamin, the Bills are determined to make the team better. Furthermore, the coaches see a bright future with Josh Allen. Recievers Zay Jones and Robert Foster were serviceable late in the year with Allen under center. Jones seemed to be the short area target and Foster was the flier.
Foster had 541 yards and three touchdowns as he picked up steam the second half of the season. On the flip side, Jones accumulated 652 yards and seven touchdowns. The thing they lack is the uncanny ability to get open versus any coverage.
Brown showed up in big moments this season, no surprise there. Against Baltimore, he caught five passes for 62 yards and a TD. Then, he went on to have another solid game against them again as he caught five more passes for 42 yards and a score. Lastly, AB showed up big against the Chargers as he caught 10 balls for 154 and another score.
Not to mention, Brown can serve as a mentor to Foster and Jones. Look no further than Juju Smith-Schuster who has topped 2,000 yards in his first two seasons to go along with 14 touchdowns. His passion, resourcefulness as a route runner, and nose for the end zone could be credited to learning under Brown.
Brown as a Bill would give him the chance to break that narrative of being a bad team while being the undisputed top guy.
Too many mouths
The reoccurring theme of up-and-coming teams that have a young quarterback leads us to the Baltimore Ravens.
Lamar Jackson has shown skills similar to Allen at running the ball. He also needs a receiver like him in Brown. They have a lot of complementary guys out wide in John Brown, Willie Snead, and Michael Crabtree. So, AB would have no problem stepping in as the top dog. More importantly, Brown would have the chance twice a year to play his former team. The revenge narrative would be one to enjoy.
Finally, the team that rounds out the list is the Arizona Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald’s contract is coming up and while he is very talented he had his lowest yards since his rookie year and tied for his third fewest receptions. Fitzgerald is at the end of his career and could be retiring sooner than later.
Brown could replace Fitzgerald as a strong top receiver on a team, with a young quarterback, that needs it.
The end game
In reality, the team that goes after Brown will have to have a lot of appeal. If they are listening to offers, the Steelers would probably be looking for two or three first round picks (similar to what Oakland received for Amari Cooper). They could also be in the business for a solid defender, mainly at the second or third level.
Then, there is the matter of an epiphany.
Brown may find that he wants to stay with Pittsburgh through his contract, which is good for the next few seasons. In any case, let’s keep an eye out to see what his end game might be.