What will be the next Antonio Brown landing spot?
By: Dave Browne
Antonio Brown has had quite the journey over the past 24 months. Once regarded as the best wide receiver in the NFL, the former All-Pro wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh and subsequently got his wish to be traded. He then essentially missed all of the 2019 training camp with the then Oakland Raiders due to an influx of bizarre circumstances. Between his frozen foot mishap, helmet squabble and later legal issues, the Raiders franchise had enough. If the Raiders are giving up on you, then you KNOW that there are issues. Whether Brown’s antics were his way of getting out of Oakland we will never know. But if that’s what his goal was, then he succeeded.
By the day Brown’s behavior became stranger and stranger. Then came more legal trouble. Without getting into the legalities, there were some major concerns about what was accused of him.
The New England Patriots, and seemingly Brown’s biggest fan, Tom Brady didn’t seem to care. Brady welcomed Brown into his home and lobbied that the Patriots sign him. Low and behold, the Patriots signed him in spite of the red flags. He played in one game for the Patriots (albeit a good game in which he scored) until another accusation became public. They had enough as well.
Brown had a quiet off-season and hopefully got some of his personal stuff together while the legalities played itself out. Ironically enough it was Tom Brady, having since moved onto Tampa Bay who seemingly convinced Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Bruce Arians to sign Brown.
Arians went on record saying that signing Brown ‘was never going to happen.’ Yea, we all know who is running the show in Tampa Bay. Brown joined the team in Week 9 and made his impact felt the rest of the season. Brown bought into what Tampa Bay was selling and for once didn’t need to be the alpha receiver. The team concept worked and as a result Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl.
Antonio Brown is set to become a free agent once again in March. Did he earn himself a big contract, or will he still need to sign a ‘prove it’ deal to show teams that he is a changed man. He showed that he could still be a legit wide receiver in this league and a full off-season with a team will do him wonders just in terms of on field success. I lean that he will still have to sign a short term contract with a club because of the stigma that comes with him. Here are five teams that make sense to sign Antonio Brown.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is probably the safest, and best place for Brown to be in. It just makes too much sense not to go down this road again. It’s clear that these two have chemistry both on and off the field. Whether it is justifiable or not, Tom Brady has been one of the few people in the NFL who has had Brown’s back over the course of the last two years. Whether Brady has a deep admiration for Brown the player, person or both, it is evident that Brady wants him as a teammate. After the Super Bowl, you could see the how indebted Brown was towards Brady. It’s almost as if he would not want to let Brady down.
From a football perspective it makes sense as well. There is no guarantee that wide receiver Chris Godwin will be back with the team due to his impending free agency. The Buccaneers would have depth at the wide receiver position without Godwin, but it is asking a lot for young wideouts Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson to replicate that sort of production. If Godwin does leave via free agency then Brown would be a perfect compliment to Mike Evans. Brown is versatile where he could line up in the slot much like Godwin, and obviously could work the outside. If we are to assume a normal off-season program for the NFL (or at least training camp), there is no reason why Brown could not duplicate the type of success that Godwin had with the team. Brown had 45 receptions for 483 yards and 4 touchdowns in 8 games for Tampa Bay. With the training wheels turned off, there is no reason why he can’t turn it up a notch for them.
Tampa Bay should be Brown’s number one destination to play football in 2021. It’s an environment that is conducive for his own personal and professional success. Let the bromance between him and Brady continue!
4. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and Andy Reid are never shy about signing or drafting players with a checkered past. From just a football standpoint, this makes as much sense as Tampa Bay. Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson are both set to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents. Beyond Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, they are pretty thin at the wide receiver position. Kansas City’s pass happy offense prioritizes two high end talents in Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, and to this point you can’t deny the success that they’ve had. However, at some point they need to make the offense a bit more diverse at the skill positions. It would be great to assume that Mecole Hardman is ready to make that leap to being a viable, consistent number two wide receiver. There is no denying his talent, but the Chiefs may want a more steady, well rounded wide receiver in that offense.
Adding Brown would take this offense to another level. Hill and Hardman as the deep threats, Kelce working the middle of the field and Brown’s explosiveness as a route runner would make this dominant offense even more dominant.
Brown would not have to be the alpha wide receiver that he was earlier in his career with the Steelers. Albeit a small sample size, Brown did ‘buy’ into the team philosophy. At this stage of his career, I think he realizes the days of catching 100 plus passes are over. He needs to be selfless much like he was in Tampa Bay.
BUT, he would play in an offense run by Patrick Mahomes. Barring any injuries, he will put up some pretty gaudy numbers.
Andy Reid is one of the most respected coaches in his profession. He is for all intensive purposes a coach that players want to play for. So Kansas City checks all the boxes for a guy like Brown.
- Chance to win
- Chance to be productive in a great offense
- Play with a great quarterback in Patrick Mahomes
- Being coached by Andy Reid, who is respected and isn’t afraid to take chances
This would be an ideal landing spot for Brown at this point in his career.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Notice a trend here? The Rams are another team on the cusp winning a championship. The team is going ‘all-in.’ GM Les Snead has never shied away from making a splash, as evident by trading up to get Jared Goff in the 2016 NFL Draft, trading two first round picks for lockdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey and then trading a plethora of draft capital, including Goff to acquire Matthew Stafford. This team has a three year window to win the Lombardi Trophy. They have their quarterback and a solid defense. Why not give head coach Sean McVay another toy to play with to round out their wide receiver core.
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are very good wideouts. Van Jefferson has the potential to be a valuable asset down the line. But Brown could potentially give the Rams the best trio of wide receivers in the league and make them THAT much more difficult to defend.
Imagine what McVay could do with those 3. It wouldn’t be the greatest show on turf, but it would sure be close! We know what Woods and Kupp could do. They run good routes, move the chains and McVay always puts them in a position to succeed with quick screens and jet sweeps. However, they are somewhat limited in what they could do in terms of making big plays down the field. Insert Antonio Brown. He may not be as explosive as he was 5 years ago, but it was evident this season with Tampa Bay that he could make big plays.
The Rams have a solid foundation, are well coached and have respected veterans on the team. It is hard to keep a low profile in a city like LA, but if we know Brown he loves to put on a show. This could be a match made in football Heaven, and could help put a team like the Rams over the top.
2. Arizona Cardinals
This would be an intriguing destination for a receiver like Antonio Brown. The Arizona offense COULD be something special. Kyler Murray is in his third season operating in Kliff Kingsbury’s system, DeAndre Hopkins is an elite wide receiver and they run the ball very efficiently.
If we’ve learned anything about DeAndre Hopkins is that he could pretty much do anything. He was targeted an ABSURD 160 (!!) times this season. If the Cardinals offense is going to become elite, they need to be more diverse offensively. Christian Kirk showed flashes albeit with little consistency. Larry Fitzgerald may decide to retire. Andy Isabella makes the occasional big play in limited playing time.
Antonio Brown would come in and become a viable number two wide receiver that Arizona so desperately needs. Defenses will still shadow Hopkins with their number one corner, or use a safety in coverage. That being the case, Brown should get advantageous matchups and more often than not win in those situations.
If this is about opportunity Arizona makes sense. He could sign a short term contract with incentives, stay on his best behavior and put himself back on the market next off-season. Arizona’s offense is on the cusp of greatness, with Kyler Murray at the helm, and Brown could help put them over the top. If Arizona makes improvements to the offensive line and defense, this could be a playoff team next year.
- Tennessee Titans
Tennessee would be a wildcard for Antonio Brown, but the need for a wide receiver is there. This would have to be the most selfless destination for Brown to go to. He would be in run based offense that features a 2,000 yard rusher. He could see stretches of a game where he is not being targeted as much as he’d like.
There is no denying the type of team success that Tennessee has had recently. They made it to the AFC Championship game in 2019 and made the Wild Card this past season. With improvements at wide receiver and defense, this team could be a true contender.
AJ Brown is a treasure for the Titans. He has splashed super star potential thus far in his two year career. Corey Davis is an impending free agent who never really lived up to the hype of being the number 5 overall pick in the draft out of Western Michigan. I’d lean on him not returning. Adam Humphries is a nice slot receiver, but he’s not going to move the needle too much. The depth at wide receiver after AJ Brown is pretty bare.
Tennessee needs more play makers as a whole offensively, and truth be told need to be more aggressive with their passing attack. They’ve become too predictable of an offense by always running it on first down.
Acquiring a guy like Brown could help open up that offense. There is little that he can’t do as a route runner and as a whole. Both Antonio and AJ could benefit from having each other as teammates. At least one of them could see favorable coverage on any given week, and let’s be honest both a good enough to win their individual matchups.
Tennessee is not a pass happy offense, so would Antonio be really happy himself? If he is willing to sacrifice his statistics for the betterment of the team, this could be a bold, yet rewarding move for Tennessee to make.