Antonio Brown is officially back on an NFL roster. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers inked the troubled wideout to a one-year deal, and he will be eligible to return to the football field following Week 8 when his suspension is over. It is somewhat difficult to believe that Brown is being given yet another chance after everything that happened the last time he was a member of an NFL organization.
Regardless, it is an interesting marriage. Head coach Bruce Arians is notoriously blunt and does not seem the type to tolerate any sort of tomfoolery from his players, especially the kind of things that led to Brown's year-long exodus from the NFL in the first place. When rumors surfaced back in March that the Bucs were considering signing Brown, Arians' no-bullshit attitude seemed one of the bigger obstacles to making a union with Brown work.
That thought process was only given more credence after Arians appeared on Tiki and Tierney around the same time and was pretty straightforward about why he didn't see bringing Brown aboard anytime soon:
"On the "Tiki and Tierney" show on CBS Sports Network on Thursday, Arians was asked by Tiki Barber about the likelihood of Brown coming to Tampa Bay. "Yeah, it's not gonna happen," Arians said. "There's no room. And probably not enough money. But it's not gonna happen -- it's not a fit here." Brandon Tierney did point out that there is room because the Bucs lost speedster Breshad Perriman in free agency to the Jets, before asking whether Arians would be willing to sign Brown at the veterans minimum, just so he could play with pal Brady. "No," Arians said. When asked if it was because he didn't trust what Brown would do for the culture of the team, Arians said, "Yeah, I just know him, and -- it's not a fit in our locker room.""
Arians, of course, coached Brown for a spell while he was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers before heading to Arizona. He has a better grasp on who Brown is as a personality than anyone in the Bucs locker room. For all Tom Brady will vouch for Brown, he only worked with him in a professional capacity for less than two weeks in New England last year.
Despite all that, Brown is now a member of the Bucs. It makes one wonder what exactly happened to change Arians' opinion between March and now. His sign-off was almost certainly required. He must've given it. Why does he think Brown would be a good fit in the locker room now? From a public-facing standpoint, nothing suggests Brown is a different person than the one who bashed Robert Kraft on Instagram after he was released from the Patriots while embroiled in several lawsuits and announced his retirement not once, but twice.
Even as a newcomer, Brady's word means something, which presumably worked in Brown's favor. The current state of the Bucs' receiving core probably also played a factor; both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been banged up all season and O.J. Howard is done for the year after tearing his Achilles. The obvious trump card is Brown's talent, which was never in doubt over the course of his long and strange saga.
Perhaps Brown really has seen the light and has completely changed. That's certainly a possibility. But nobody outside of Brown's inner circle knows whether or not that's true. The Bucs believe it to be true, clearly. But they'll find out if they're right in the upcoming weeks. From where we're sitting right now, it feels like Brown will either be cut by Week 10 or he's in it for the long run as another valuable piece. Even if he gave the sign-off, Arians won't hesitate to cut the man if he threatens the integrity of the team.
Something changed over the last seven months for Arians. The near future will tell us how real that change was.