Tim Benz: Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt signing proves trade market exists for Antonio Brown
The KDKA “Sports Showdown” on Sunday featured quite a debate regarding the notion of the Pittsburgh Steelers trading receiver Antonio Brown.
I pointed out that Martavis Bryant, a troubled receiver with a record of suspension, commanded a third-round pick in return during draft weekend last year. Therefore, I believe a vastly superior player such as Brown should be able to yield at least a second-round pick this spring.
I stand by this belief despite the threat of suspension from the NFL based on a recent police investigation into a domestic matter at Brown’s home in Florida.
My opinion was not universally well-received.
Others on the panel, understandably, advanced the opinion that Brown wouldn’t be desirable given the prospect of an NFL investigation and the potential of a suspension.
Many who share this view do so based on the premise that teams are much more socially conscious these days and operate in a more politically sensitive manner in the wake of the Ray Rice fallout in Baltimore.
For instance, look at the 49ers and how they got rid of Reuben Fos…
What? Wait. The Browns signed who?
We've signed RB Kareem Hunt
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019
Yup. Cleveland signed Kareem Hunt. That Kareem Hunt. The same guy who the Chiefs released during the 2018 campaign despite his status as a likely Pro Bowler in a potential Super Bowl season.
Why? Because video was discovered of him pushing and kicking a woman in February 2018.
Like Brown, Hunt wasn’t arrested or charged. The league hasn’t acted on this matter yet, but he is back on the commissioner’s exempt list, which means he cannot participate in football activities and could still face suspension.
And that was my point. Teams aren’t afraid to take on these risks anymore.
In terms of football exclusively:
• In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger was suspended four games in the wake of multiple sexual assault allegations that went uncharged. The Steelers went to the Super Bowl.
• In 2016, Tom Brady got suspended four games for Deflategate. The Patriots won the Super Bowl with him as the MVP.
• In 2016, Le’Veon Bell was suspended three games for marijuana violations. The Steelers went to the AFC championship game.
• In 2018, Julian Edelman was suspended four games for a banned substance. The Patriots won the Super Bowl with him as the MVP.
Let’s even take a look beyond the Xs and Os. I was appalled that the Steelers signed Michael Vick despite his dog-fighting history. But how many fans really stayed away from Heinz Field?
Dallas still has a massive national fan base despite Ezekiel Elliott’s presence on the roster. He was suspended six games because of domestic violence-related incidents.
Most of the angst I see from Washington fans is about Alex Smith’s leg instead of Reuben Foster’s history with drug issues, weapons charges and domestic violence.
And when is the last time a Kansas City fan booed Tyreek Hill? A police report stated he choked a girlfriend in 2015. The Chiefs drafted him anyway.
I’ll grant that Antonio Brown is different in one respect. The idea of trading for Brown means you are bringing on someone else’s problem and someone else’s contract. Kansas City drafted Hill. Foster and Hunt were released. The other players were established stars on their original teams.
In the case of Brown, Team X would be absorbing his baggage and $42 million deal over the next three years.
Organizations that stay away from Brown would likely do so because of what he might do. Not what he has done.
Brown’s recent erratic behavior — the Florida incidents, land-speed records on McKnight Road, disappearing acts during game weeks, bleached facial hair — may be more of a red flag for what is to come as opposed to the blights already on his resume.
I don’t expect those issues to be an overwhelming deterrent. Bidders will still be out there for Brown.
High-ranking AFC source on notion of Antonio Brown on the trading block: “Hope so.”
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 1, 2019
As Cleveland just proved:
• It only takes one franchise to be a buyer.
• Society’s collective memory is only as long as its last trend on Twitter.
• Talent trumps all.
A trade market will still exist for Brown if the Steelers are so inclined.