Analysis: Trade interest in Antonio Brown all over the map
Antonio Brown is an elite player. He plays a position where you need multiple threats. He’s under contract at a relatively affordable rate. His team wants to give him away. And he’d love to craft a new deal that may be more beneficial to him long term, which may massage his upfront cap hit this season.
So, really, any team is in play to acquire Brown from the Steelers.
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the level of interest is all over the map.
Based on some quotes from head coaches and general managers gathered by the Trib’s Steelers beat writer Joe Rutter, who is in Indianapolis, and a few other outlets, here is a quick look at a few teams and their level of interest in trading for Mr. Big Chest.
Or at least what they want us to think.
That can’t be more obvious based on general manager John Dorsey’s open invitation to Kevin Colbert.
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) February 28, 2019
Well, that phone may ring. But only as a last resort. Colbert isn’t trading Brown to a division rival unless everybody else, including the Patriots, says no first.
And even at that point, the Steelers may hang on to Brown and hope for the best.
Leaving the door open
We’ve outlined Oakland as a potential destination before. And Jon Gruden certainly seemed to enjoy playing coy about the prospect of going after Brown.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden addressed the offseason for his team including Antonio Brown trade rumors. pic.twitter.com/uvtwiHMCIk
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 1, 2019
Take note at the caution at the end of the clip. But that Chucky smile tells a lot more.
Via Rutter: Kliff Kingsbury, a rookie coach heading into his first season with the Cardinals, also was asked about whether he would want a petulant wide receiver who demands the ball and isn’t afraid to criticize the quarterback.
“Yeah, it depends on how good they are,” Kingsbury said. “If they’re that good, I think you can find that happy medium.”
Last time I checked, A.B. is pretty good.
Can you tell Mike Vrabel learned at the feet of Bill Belichick with this answer?
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) February 27, 2019
OK, I take that back. Belichick would have said precisely the same thing in 30 fewer seconds and with 20 more sighs and grunts.
But if the Titans do wind up interested, Vrabel may want to change that whole “we treat everybody fairly, but we treat ‘em differently” thing. That’s what got Brown ticked off at the Steelers in the first place, right?
Even though — of course — Brown was the greatest beneficiary of that frequent double standard that anyone has ever seen.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We’ll keep this one short from Tampa.
Jason Licht says the Bucs have had no discussions about trading for Antonio Brown.
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) February 27, 2019
Yeah. Not much else there. So, of course, I assume there is something else there.
New York Jets
See if you can follow this quote from New York general manager Mike Maccagnan in the New York Post.
“We haven’t really ventured that far into yet — so, simply put, it’s like at this point in time we’re sort of evaluating the free-agency market, not the trade market, and we’ll see how that one unfolds.”
Translation, if I can find a good free-agent wide receiver, I’ll sign him. If I can’t, I’ll call Kevin back.
Pretending they aren’t interested
San Francisco 49ers
I still think San Francisco has an interest in Brown. The way Jerry Rice has been acting, if they don’t get Brown and someone else does, Rice will never let general manager John Lynch live it down.
But Lynch is doing everything he can to cool the speculation.
Rutter asked Lynch directly about Brown.
And Lynch added this quote.
“It’s funny how one tweet from one player to another turns into interest and all of that, but hey that is the world we live in,” Lynch said. “I can tell you that like every team in this league we think this guy is a heck of a football player, but we have not had talks with the Steelers, I can tell you that.”
That’s a good sell. Let’s see if he means it in about two weeks or so.
Perhaps genuinely not interested
Despite the copious cap space and resurgent roster, Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard has maintained happiness with his team despite repeated inquiries as to whether or not he’d be interested in either Brown or Le’Veon Bell.
Largely, he has made those comments based on matters such as locker room chemistry and teamwork.
Head coach Frank Reich echoed that tone to The Athletic.
“It’s the right kind of culture,” Reich said. “That culture starts with the guys in that locker room. It’s not open to just anybody. That locker room is not just open to any great player. You’ve got to be the right guy. You’ve got to be the right player.”
Those two are always going to be the right players.
They probably will never be the right guys. That much was evident in Pittsburgh.