By: Eric Mintzer (Twitter: @Mintsports)
Making sense of the Bucs signing Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown is done with an eight game suspension and officially a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. In Tampa, Brown rejoins Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski with whom he played one game as a New England Patriot. Just a game. Brown adds additional firepower to Bruce Arians’ air raid offense. Arians has experience with Brown (let’s not forget), as Arians was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers during Brown’s first two seasons in the NFL. Yet, the question now is how will Brown impact a Tampa Bay team with championship aspirations.
Hey Tom, What can Brown do for you?
For Antonio Brown, talent and production have never been the issue. Prior to his fall from grace in 2019, Brown had six straight seasons with over 100 receptions, 1200 yards and a Pro Bowl appearance. In six postseason starts, Brown has averaged 6.8 receptions and 112.8 yards per game while scoring four touchdowns. Yet for all of his personal accomplishments, he has very little postseason success to celebrate-To chip in that.
During his first eight seasons with the Steelers, Brown led a high-powered offense to six playoff appearances. However, the Steelers only went as far as the 2017 AFC championship game which they lost to the Tom Brady-led Patriots. While Brown has failed to reach a super bowl, Brady has won six with his sight set on a seventh.
At the ripe age of 43, Tom Brady is having a resurgence. Through seven games, Brady has 18 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, while averaging 274 yards per game. During his incredible reign with the Patriots, Brady was notorious for using all of his weapons. That has continued in Tampa. Bradys top five receivers have 25, 25, 22, 22 and 18 receptions.
Now, Brown will have to work to find his share of the offense. At 6’5” and 6’6” respectively, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski give Brady his best options in the red zone. As a slot receiver, Brown will have his best shot, but he’s seen as a third overall option, nonetheless. Even if Godwin has missed three games due to injury, he’s been a Top-8 WR in this league since the beginning of 2019. Brady has also been using Scotty Miller at the slot receiver in the same manner in which he used Wes Welker. Miller’s success could mean even fewer targets for Brown, even if AB gets more reps there.
All in all, with a player as talented as Brown-Bruce Arians, and Tom Brady will find a way to use him. Even if it is just as a decoy to open the secondary for Evans, Godwin, or Miller. He’s flat out a threat. Any defensive has to devote attention to Brown because of his explosiveness, but also can’t ignore the other receiving threats.
AB – Abnormal Behavior?
Currently, the Bucs are 5-2 and in first place in the NFC South. Despite having a super bowl-winning quarterback-tight end combination, two Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and an offensive-minded coach, it is the defense that is leading the way. Right now, the Bucs’ have the second most sacks in the league, and have allowed the third fewest yards. Furthermore, the Bucs have a league high +80 point differential, which shows their dominance.
All of this begs the question, what will Brown bring to the Bucs? It is completely possible that Brown’s behavior is more harmful than helpful to Tampa Bay. Let’s take a very brief look at AB’s last three years.
In 2018, Brown was accused of throwing furniture out of a 14th story window, and cited for reckless driving. Publicly, Brown criticized quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Then he skipped several practices before the Steelers’ final game against the Bengals, for which he was benched.
Next, in April of 2019, Brown took to social media to criticize teammates and his time in Pittsburgh. He then forced a trade to Oakland, where he infamously got cut before playing a single game. Shortly after, Brown attempted to return and play with the Patriots, but was let go after only one game.
In October 2020, Brown just finished an eight-game suspension, after a no contest plea to burglary and battery charges from a January incident in Florida. Additionally, Brown has ongoing investigations into reported sexual assault allegations.
What happens next?
Ultimately, this is going to go one of two ways. On one hand, it is completely possible that Brown returns to his All-Pro caliber of play. He joins a receiving corp that will not have to overly rely on his ability to make play. Bruce Arians has already referred to Brown as an insurance policy, rather than a key part of their game plan. Given that Brown has only played in one NFL game in the past two years, it would make sense for the Bucs to let Brown gradually adjust to the system. The second half of the season will prepare Brown for a playoff run.
Conversely, it is possible that this experiment ends abruptly. Facing a criminal investigation means at any given time he could face additional punishment from the NFL. Alternatively, if he becomes an off the field distraction, the Bucs will cut him. Ultimately, they have enough talent at receiver that Brown is expendable. Lastly, let’s face it, Tom Brady will not tolerate Brown’s antics if it gets in the way of winning the seventh ring.