In a somewhat unexpected move, the 5-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers made headlines over the weekend by finalizing a one-year deal with former Steelers star and 7x Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown.
It was first reported last week that Brown could potentially sign with the Seahawks upon the expiration of his 8-week NFL suspension. The Seahawks and a few other undisclosed teams were said to have been interested in pursuing AB. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks seemed to be the team that was all in Brown. Just the idea of pairing Antonio Brown with DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and a possibly reinstated Josh Gordon probably made opposing NFC West teams question their season. Luckily for them, the thought of Brown joining the Seahawks will remain just that, a thought.
Resurfaced footage of Brown working out with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson only fueled the speculations of Brown heading to Seattle. AB is also a close friend of Geno Smith, who is Seattle’s backup QB.
Tampa Making A Deal
Within hours, however, the news had taken hold that Brown was headed to Tampa Bay, or should we recognize it on the map now as “Tompa Bay”, to reunite with his former short-lived Patriots teammate Tom Brady.
The Buccaneers are coming off of a strong Week 7 win against the Raiders. They should easily dismantle the Giants in Week 8, the final week of AB’s suspension. That leaves plenty of room for Brown to make his debut in Week 9 against Teddy Two-Gloves and the Panthers. There is still another full week before we see Brown suited up once again. If you think we’re gonna spend this week talking about the possible outcomes of the Buccaneers’ decision to add the 7x Pro Bowler, then you are absolutely correct.
First, we’ll take a look at the details of the deal that is sending one of the NFLs most controversial figures to an already stacked house in Tampa. Brown and the Buccaneers agreed to a 1-year deal paying just above the league minimum. It pays 1 million in base salary and Brown has the possibility to earn up to 2.5 million dollars with incentives.
Brown joins fellow Pro Bowl wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well as Super Champion tight end Rob Gronkowski (now that he’s no longer jumping off of platforms at WrestleMania), veteran RB LeSean McCoy and star RB Leonard Fournette. Add emerging stars in RB Ronald Jones and WR Scotty Miller, and you’ve got yourself one powerhouse of an offense.
Again, the deal also reunites Tom Brady with Brown as well. It is worth noting that Antonio Brown has not played a down of football since his lone appearance with the Patriots. This came in September of last season against the Dolphins, a game in which he did score a TD. Whether this could hinder his play we don’t know quite yet. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios.
Where It Could Go Wrong
As previously stated, Brown’s contract includes an increase in pay with both team and personal incentives. The team incentives provide a perfect scenario; Brown has always wanted to play for a Super Bowl contender. It is the individual incentives that could be problematic.
Obviously the better Brown plays, the more money he makes, despite his contract only maxing out at 2.5 million dollars. But Brown, like many star athletes, wants his money regardless if it leaves a team having to eat dead cap space. Brown is also notorious for demanding targets from quarterbacks. If he doesn’t receive the amount of touches he wants, it could stir drama between Brown, the coaching staff, and the rest of the wide receiver corps. Brown will want the ball to show teams he still has the ability of Steelers-era AB. Tom Brady may be left focusing on keeping Brown happy if he is not being targeted enough.
We all know the issues Antonio Brown has caused off the field. His behavioral issues allowed him to practically force his way out of Pittsburgh. Brown was then in Oakland for a hot second in 2019. Like the Raiders franchise itself, he left the city before playing a single game. I guess the blue hair and blonde mustache look didn’t stick in Oakland.
What, you don’t remember that? That’s okay most people choose not to. Brown was cut from the Pats a month later, only adding to the stigma that he is a cancer for a team to sign. This is a worst case scenario for Bruce Arians. Let’s take a look at a potential positive outcome for the Bucs this season.
If All Goes According to Plan
With three of their top targets in Evans, Godwin and Miller all dealing with injuries, Brown is simply insurance for the Bucs. You can’t expect a star like Mike Evans to play to his potential on one good leg week after week like he had against the Bears. How many teams can replace one Pro Bowl receiver with another, in case of injury? Not many.
Furthermore, Antonio Brown and Tom Brady have proven they have chemistry on the field. Brown finished that one game in 2019 with four receptions on eight targets. He also had a team-leading 56 yards, a TD, and rushed for 5 yds. In one game, Brown and Brady had a TD to their credit. Perhaps with almost half a season left together, Brady and Brown can recreate or even surpass their apparent chemistry from a year ago.
Hopefully, AB can accept his role and not become a distraction to hinder their successful season thus far. Add Brown to a team with as much depth as the Bucs have, with a Super Bowl mainstay at the helm throwing you the ball, and you have many pieces to the puzzle for a Super Bowl push.
Whether you like the signing or absolutely loathe this pickup for the Bucs, it certainly adds to the drama leading up to the trade deadline. Earlier last week, Yannick Ngakoue was traded to the Ravens from the Vikings in what was another massive deal to boost the Ravens defense and shakeup the playoff picture.
The Bucs, unlike the Ravens with Ngakoue, are bolstering their offense for a deep playoff push. Bruce Arians knows he is playing with fire, or perhaps even a ticking time bomb. He has hope that Brown has matured enough to keep himself away from off-field or locker room issues, though. Arians has already addressed that if Brown complains about touches the Bucs are “going to have a problem.” Hopefully, the latest saga in the Buccaneers quest for a 2002 repeat pans out for not only their fans’ sake, but for the stability of the front office.
If this ship sinks, Arians and the coaching staff will be left to walk the pewter plank right out of Tampa.
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