Trade talks involving Antonio Brown ‘very, very preliminary,’ says Kevin Colbert
INDIANAPOLIS – Barely a week ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers acknowledged they would try to honor wide receiver Antonio Brown’s trade request.
Little has changed in the interim and any discussions remain in the “very, very preliminary” stages, general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday at the NFL Combine.
“Coming out of this, I think there will be a change one way or another,” Colbert said.
Colbert said last week three teams have inquired about trading for Brown.
“That interest has grown, and it will continue to grow one way or another,” said Colbert, who did not provide a number and refused to identify any potential trade partner.
Colbert believes by the conclusion of the NFL Combine — it ends Monday — potential trading partners will have a better idea on whether they can address a positional need by pursuing Brown or using their resources to draft a wide receiver.
“You may come away feeling better. You may come away feeling worse,” Colbert said. “One thing that doesn’t change is Antonio Brown’s value, not only to us but to anybody else in the National Football League.
“He is who he is. We have to weigh that. Other teams have to weigh that. That will be more clear at the end of the week.”
Colbert used his 15 minutes of allotted interview time for national media outlets to reiterate what he told local reporters last week – that he will accept nothing less than “significant compensation” for Brown, the only receiver to accumulate six consecutive seasons of at least 100 catches.
Colbert said it’s not lip service when he speaks of Brown’s value to the Steelers and the compensation it would take — high-round draft pick or picks, or a player and draft picks — for the organization to part with Brown.
“People can or cannot believe us,” Colbert said, “but that is our stance.”
Under NFL rules, trades cannot be transacted until March 13, the first day of the league’s calendar for the 2019 season. But the framework of a deal can be negotiated beforehand, and the Steelers will be motivated to move Brown before March 17 when he is owed a $2.5 million roster bonus.
Colbert said the Steelers won’t trade Brown by that date unless they get the compensation package they are seeking. He also said the Steelers haven’t ruled out trading Brown to a divisional or conference opponent, although he allowed that sending the wide receiver to an NFC team would be preferred since the Steelers play those teams only once every four seasons.
“The less you would have to play (against) him, the better,” Colbert said, “but if a team comes through with the best compensation, we have to balance it out (and say), ‘OK, we have to play him twice a year, but we’re going to get the best compensation.’
“We have to weigh that into discussions. We haven’t eliminated anybody.”
Brown has expressed a desire to play for the San Francisco 49ers. Coach Kyle Shanahan, however, said Wednesday he is unaware of the 49ers contacting the Steelers about Brown.
On Saturday, the Steelers will get a chance to evaluate the top wide receivers in the draft class when positional workouts are conducted at Lucas Oil Stadium. If the Steelers don’t sign a wide receiver in free agency, they likely will use a high pick in the NFL Draft to pick a player to join JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington atop the depth chart.
“We will come out of this week with a different opinion than when we entered,” Colbert said. “We scouted all of these players, now we just get some verification on some of the things that we believe. But we also get into the free-agency process, and a player that we wouldn’t be able to afford, now maybe we will be able to afford, and that changes your draft strategy.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .