After several months of borderline-unbelievable controversy, the Oakland Raiders have officially released Antonio Brown. While his recent issues are clearly a flashing red flag for any prospective teams, his talent is undeniable, and teams will definitely be looking at bringing the problematic wideout in, regardless of what’s happened. For how much is a big question; it’s hard to see any team giving him more than an a few million on an non-guaranteed deal, but bidding wars may drive the price up, and Brown has made it abundantly clear he doesn’t want to play without some modicum of guaranteed money.
Here are five teams who may decide that the risk is worth the reward, and bring in Brown despite the circumstances.
New England Patriots
The most obvious choice. The Patriots have become notorious for their willingness to take a risk on players who have found themselves adrift for one reason or another, with Josh Gordon being the most recent example. This doesn’t seem as likely as everyone assumes, however; players who have ended up in New England in the past are there to win, and Brown’s priority appears to be money first, second, and third. Not to mention the fact that Bill Belichick and Brown’s personalities wouldn’t really mesh, to say the least.
But you can never rule the Pats out. Gordon is anything but a sure bet to be on the field at this point, and they placed N'Keal Harry on IR after cut-down day.
Their depth isn’t necessarily outstanding, and Belichick has always been willing to give it a shot when the player is talented enough. Unlikely, but a possibility nonetheless.
Speaking in purely football terms, the Seahawks are a natural fit for Brown. Their receivers are all big questions marks outside of Tyler Lockett, and they’re clearly looking to capitalize on Russell Wilson’s prime after stealing Jadeveon Clowney from the Texans. He’d give Wilson a target like the Pro Bowl QB has never had before.
Culture-wise is a tougher sell. Seattle was in the bad graces of the public eye after refusing to give Earl Thomas an extension and watching him subsequently break his leg. If they didn’t give Thomas, a pillar of their legendary defense, a deal he felt he deserved, it’s hard to imagine John Schneider and Pete Carroll willing to fork over anything for a player with the past of Brown. But it may be worth it given how thin they are at receiver.
Brown isn’t the savior the Colts need after the sudden retirement of their franchise quarterback. But if they really want to compete like they’ve been saying, bringing in more talent to aid Jacoby Brissett is the only way to do so. Perhaps most importantly, the Colts still have oodles of cap space if it comes down to a bidding war for Brown’s services.
Does Chris Ballard want Brown around a very young team? Not likely. But the team is talented, and adding Brown would give them one of the top one-two punches in the league. The risk is great, and he wouldn’t immediately vault them into championship contention, but Ballard will consider it if he feels a dynamic receiver is what the team needs to get over the hump.
San Fransisco 49ers
Similar to the Seahawks, the Niners are in dire need of receiving depth. The only proven receiver they have is Marquise Goodwin, and he’s one-dimensional as a player. George Kittle is very good, but Jimmy Garoppolo can’t only throw to the two of them all season. This is an extremely important year for the John Lynch administration, and tangible on-field results are necessary to prevent him from feeling the heat. Giving Garoppolo a target like Brown would go a long way towards proving they were right in giving Garoppolo a big-time extension, and aid his performance as he continues to get back into the groove after his torn ACL.
If Lynch believes Kyle Shanahan can handle Brown, he’ll be on the phone with Drew Rosenhaus in short order. In arguably the toughest division in football, they need more firepower to have a chance of making the playoffs, and Brown can at least provide that.
The Eagles also have a young quarterback with a strong team around him that could use another reliable target. Carson Wentz already has a proven stable of pass-catchers with Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and DeSean Jackson, but could always use more help. From all appearances, the Eagles have a good culture in Philadelphia that has helped in their resurgence as one of the best teams in the league. Brown could give them the boost they need to be considered prohibitive favorites in the NFC.
They don’t really need Brown, per se; Doug Pederson’s offensive scheme is one of the best in the league, and they aren’t as thin as the Niners or Seahawks at receiver. But the Eagles have tasted Super Bowl success, and Brown’s presence would help ensure they have another chance like no other player in the league right now. Don’t rule it out.