At some point Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday morning, after a report suggested Antonio Brown was being traded from the Steelers to the Bills, the 30-year-old wide receiver “indicated he would not report” to Buffalo if dealt, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Fair enough. The Bills have had just three winning seasons in this millennium. Even though Brown has suggested he does not need to continue his NFL career, and even though it seems clear his primary motivation in his trade request is related to money and not championship contention, it is his right to push back against any deal, even though the Steelers ultimately control his short-term destiny.
So maybe Brown is glad the Buffalo trade fell through. But he has to recognize that, chances are, this trade saga is not going to end in a way that is satisfactory for him.
Yes, there are a couple teams that, in theory, could still trade for Brown and provide the wideout a desirable destination. But of the teams reportedly still in the running for a Brown trade, there are more than a couple that likely would prompt the same reaction he reportedly had to the Bills rumors.
San Francisco 49ers
There are two great white hopes, if you will, for Brown at this point. The 49ers are the first. For reasons that have been repeated here and elsewhere, San Francisco seems like an ideal fit for Brown both financially and situationally. From the player’s perspective, Brown has made it clear this is his preferred destination.
The problem is a Feb. 28 report from NFL Media that claimed the 49ers “won’t be in play” for Brown. At the time, San Francisco general manager John Lynch reportedly had not had any discussions with Pittsburgh. Brown can only hope the 49ers are one of the “three new teams” that entered trade talks with the Steelers a few days ago, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
The Colts represent the other potentially desirable destination for Brown in terms of on-field promise. They have a need at wide receiver and are equipped with the most salary-cap space in the league for 2019.
Yet, while there have been no reports of Indianapolis being officially out of the running for a Brown trade, such a move seems unlikely. Said general manager Chris Ballard last week at the Combine: “(The Colts’) locker room is not just open to any great player. You gotta be the right guy.” Many took the quote as a sign that Indianapolis would not be interested in acquiring Brown.
Now we get to the teams that, based on reports, are more likely than the 49ers or Colts are to trade for Brown. They’re … not as pretty.
On March 1, the Redskins were listed in an ESPN report as one of the three teams that had “shown the most interest” in trading for Brown. This is not the place for a take-down of one of the most dysfunctional organizations in all of sports — (If you’d like, you can read one here) — so we’ll just quickly mention how Washington is addressing its questionable quarterback situation for 2019 with … Case Keenum. Enough said. (Update: ESPN’s Dianna Russini reports the Redskins are “not in on the Brown sweepstakes.”)
Speaking of dysfunction, and teams coached by a Gruden, the Raiders also were mentioned in that ESPN report. Although, according to a Wednesday report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “there is a hesitancy within the organization” when it comes to a Brown trade.
Still, Oakland’s reported pause does not change the fact that it has a need at wide receiver and is equipped with three first-round draft picks in 2019. The Raiders have the best resources to offer the Steelers in a trade, and they have a coach in Jon Gruden who has spoken highly of Brown. Yet, understandably, this is not the Bay-area team for which Brown wants to play.
This is the third team mentioned in that March 1 ESPN report, which was challeneged by another ESPN report Thursday that Tennessee is “out.” The Titans do have a need at wide receiver, though not a pressing one, and they have a solid $43.46 million in cap space for 2019.
Tennessee has gone 9-7 in each of the last three seasons. There’s no telling how Brown would react should the Titans land him in a trade.
Keep in mind that trading Brown would be a financial nightmare for the Steelers. Even if he is dealt, the receiver will cost Pittsburgh $21.12 million in 2019 in the form of a dead cap charge. The only reason the team has agreed to try to deal Brown is the evidently irreparable relationship with the player.
Try is the key word. If the Steelers are not getting what they want in the trade market, they could keep him in 2019 and deal with the drama-related ramifications.
Last Wednesday, I expressed my skepticism to #Steelers GM Kevin Colbert that Antonio Brown really could stay w/ the team, and work w/ Ben Roethlisberger. Colbert – the man w/ the power here – said the skepticism was misplaced. Listen here: pic.twitter.com/WrCwFm6zgK
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala)
Teams that are out
According to reports, the Packers and Saints will not pursue a trade for Brown. And though the Browns have been mentioned as a potential destination for the wideout, it is believed the Steelers will refuse to trade him within their own division. The same goes for the Chiefs, who reportedly expressed interest in a trade. Those are some desirable landing places (football-wise) that Brown can forget about as options.
Based on general manager Brandon Beane’s statement in the wake of the broken deal, the Bills are out.
And, not that Brown will be disappointed, but the Jets, Broncos, Cardinals and Buccaneers have been reported to be uninterested.