Potential Landing Spots, Offers After Antonio Brown Requests a Trade
Tuesday produced more signs that the Pittsburgh Steelers and superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown are headed toward a 2019 divorce.
The 30-year-old wideout does come with several off-field concerns. In January, he allegedly pushed the mother of his daughter, Wiltrice Jackson, who did not want to press charges. The NFL is still investigating.
Brown also reportedly caused tension in Pittsburgh's locker room.
An official trade can't take place until the new league year kicks off March 13, and no reports have emerged that an agreement in principle is yet in place. But here are the teams, potential deals and odds to watch as that process unfolds.
San Francisco 49ers
To truly and sensibly be in on Brown, you have to be in win-now mode (because he'll turn 31 this July). You'll need to have loose cash—because he's due $36.4 million over the next three seasons and could insist on a new deal. And you ought to be in need of a No. 1 receiver (because duh).
The San Francisco 49ers can check off every one of those boxes with enthusiasm.
Per Spotrac, only six teams are slated to enter the 2019 offseason with more salary-cap space than the 49ers, who have the talent to make a breakout playoff run as soon as possible but are missing an elite weapon in the receiving corps for young franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The 49ers also have trade ammunition. They hold the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft as well as the fourth selection in Round 2. And while that first-rounder would be too pricey for a player on the wrong side of 30, they could either trade down before making a deal or package that high second-rounder with another Day 2 pick in 2020.
Of course, considering that Brown's public approach to trade-lobbying has potentially cost the Steelers leverage, it's possible that the seven-time Pro Bowler can be had for a lot less than that.
Regardless, Brown hasn't seemed to be shy about his desire to play for the 49ers and apparently told Jerry Rice that his preference is to land in San Francisco, via 95.7 The Game. The Niners are the odds-on Las Vegas favorite to land Brown for a reason.
Odds: +200 (bet $100 to win $200)
Potential offer from San Francisco: No. 36 overall pick in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2020
It's also possible Brown could land elsewhere in the Bay Area. The Oakland Raiders have even more money to spend than San Francisco, they're just as desperate for a top-end receiver following last year's Amari Cooper trade, and they have even more trade ammunition than the 49ers (or anyone else, for that matter).
The Raiders have three first-round draft picks, including their own No. 4 overall selection, and the third pick in Round 2. They can afford Brown, who would immediately become quarterback Derek Carr's top option. And there's little doubt that the outspoken, flashy Brown has a Raider-like persona.
He could also help the team gin up hype ahead of next year's move to Las Vegas, where Brown would undoubtedly have a chance to become a sports staple.
There's no telling what the unpredictable Jon Gruden and his new front-office partner, Mike Mayock, might do. Gruden has been selling more than he's been buying, and there's a chance Brown wouldn't appeal to the old-school Mayock. But the Raiders still make a hell of a lot of sense on paper.
Potential offer from Oakland: No. 24 overall pick in 2019
New York Jets
The New York Jets might want to avoid making a potentially messy splash with a player who could disrupt a young locker room, but it's also possible that new offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase will lobby hard for general manager Mike Maccagnan to get green franchise quarterback Sam Darnold a shiny new weapon.
They don't come much shinier than Brown, and the Jets make a ton of sense. They have even more cap space than the 49ers and Raiders (and every other team in the league except the Indianapolis Colts, who already have T.Y. Hilton). They lack an elite receiver to team up with the emerging Robby Anderson. And they possess the No. 3 overall pick in April's draft.
There might, however, be less pressure on the Jets to win now, since they're sporting a second-year quarterback who has yet to turn 22 and they're coming off three consecutive seasons with five or fewer wins.
Jets fans are certainly losing patience, but there's usually a little more rope for teams in transition. Gase probably has more time in his back pocket than San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan or Gruden, and the Jets might not want to pay an aging veteran eight figures while they rebuild.
Still, safety Jamal Adams is one of the team's brightest young stars, and he probably isn't the only player in that building pushing for Brown to come to town. It's possible that'll rub off on the organization's decision-makers, who might convince themselves that a new environment will cause Brown to excel on the field and remain under control off it.
Potential offer from the Jets: Mid-first-round pick (following a trade down from No. 3) in 2019
Every few years, the Buffalo Bills like to go full cannonball into the NFL pool, whether they're trading for Drew Bledsoe (2002) or signing Terrell Owens (2009) or Mario Williams (2012).
The Pegulas are different ownership group, and the franchise has a different front-office/coaching regime. But bringing in Brown would help to boost interest in a team that hasn't won a playoff game since the 1995 postseason.
Like the Jets, the Bills might not be on the verge of contending in a division that contains the perma-dominant New England Patriots. But like the Jets, the Bills have a blue-chip first-round pick (Josh Allen) who is entering his second season at quarterback. Like the Jets, the Bills are trying to expedite a rebuild for a restless fanbase. And like the Jets, the Bills can easily afford Brown.
Only the Colts, Jets and Browns, respectively, are projected to have more cap space than a Buffalo team that has no high-profile in-house free agents and could get more money by severing ties with veterans Charles Clay and/or LeSean McCoy.
It wouldn't be surprising if Bills general manager Brandon Beane got the green light from Kim and Terry Pegula to pull the trigger on a blockbuster move involving Brown.
Potential offer from Buffalo: Mid-first-round pick (following a trade down from No. 9) in 2019
As mentioned, the Colts already have a No. 1-caliber receiver in T.Y. Hilton. But it turns out teams often use more than one receiver at the same time.
The Colts don't have a lot of talent beyond Hilton at the position, especially with Dontrelle Inman and Ryan Grant scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, and they are projected to lead the league in salary-cap space with $107.6 million.
They can afford the luxury of a Hilton-Brown combo. And after years of meager support, an argument can be made that quarterback Andrew Luck deserves that.
General manager Chris Ballard can afford to pay Brown $12-plus million per year while bringing back key defensive players Pierre Desir and Margus Hunt and even adding an elite pass-rusher in free agency. And when it comes to trade ammo, the Colts possess the second pick of Round 2 (via the Jets) in addition to their own No. 26 overall selection in Round 1.
So the Colts have the capital to make a run at Brown, even if they might not be as desperate as the rest of the teams on this list.
Potential offer from Indianapolis: No. 26 overall pick in 2019
Intriguing Long Shot: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland offense could use a player like Brown, who would be an ideal fit at an X or Z spot opposite Antonio Callaway, with Jarvis Landry in the slot. Imagine what that unit could do with Baker Mayfield clicking under center and Nick Chubb and/or Kareem Hunt, whom the Browns signed Monday despite a likely suspension coming after he shoved and kicked a woman in an altercation in February 2018.
If general manager John Dorsey finds himself daydreaming about that scenario, he could decide that Brown is worth about $12 million to an emerging team that has $79.1 million in projected cap space and a No. 17 overall pick that might be more than enough in Pittsburgh's view.
Of course, it's possible nothing will persuade the Steelers to trade Brown within the AFC North or that Dorsey would have to outbid fellow suitors by a silly margin in order for Pittsburgh to make such a deal. We're probably talking a first-round pick as well as a player who can make a difference for the Steelers immediately.
That's the main reason the Browns remain a long shot, but the ingredients are there for something to happen in a far-fetched scenario. Likely the only way the Steelers consider this is if no other team offered up a first-round pick.
Potential offer from Cleveland: No. 17 overall pick in 2019, linebacker Jamie Collins
Other Long Shots
Bookmaker lists the following teams among the eight most likely candidates to land Brown this offseason:
Arizona Cardinals (+700)
The top pick of the second round could be intriguing to the Steelers, who would probably prefer to deal Brown outside of the AFC North. Still, the Cardinals don't appear to be anywhere close to contending, and they're projected to have less than $50 million in cap space. That doesn't make them cap-poor, but investing in Brown right now would be a weird decision.
Miami Dolphins (+1000)
The Dolphins appear to be entering a rebuild. Sure, they need a top-flight receiver, but acquiring Brown would be putting the cart miles ahead of the horse. First, they need to deal with their quarterback situation, which won't be easy because they're one of just eight teams with less than $12 million in projected cap space.
Dallas Cowboys (+1100)
The Cowboys have more money to spend than they've been accustomed to at $45.7 million, but every team on this list, including Arizona, will have more cap space. Dallas already has a No. 1 receiver in Amari Cooper, and the Cowboys will soon have to take care of Demarcus Lawrence (pending free agent), Cooper (entering a contract year), Dak Prescott (ditto) and Ezekiel Elliott (one season away from his option year). Oh, and Dallas lacks a first-round pick as a result of the Cooper trade.
The following teams are listed by Bovada among the 10 most likely candidates to land Brown this offseason:
Green Bay Packers (+900)
Trading for Brown would be uncharacteristic. And any notion that Brown would be better in the locker room in Green Bay than he was in Pittsburgh would be wishful thinking. It's not as though he wasn't working with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, and there were still reportedly problems.
The Packers have a strong No. 1 receiver in Davante Adams and a middle-of-the-pack $34.2 million in cap space, but they do have three top-45 picks in April's draft. It's possible they'd do something shocking, but Packers fans shouldn't hold their breath.
New Orleans Saints (+1200)
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports recently listed the Saints (and Packers) among a group of teams that could be interested in Brown, but New Orleans already has a superb No. 1 receiver in Michael Thomas. The Saints are also strapped for cap space (projected at $9.2 million) and don't have a draft pick in the top 60. This makes no sense.