Raise your hand if you saw this coming.
Hours after the Oakland Raiders released Antonio Brown, the 31-year-old All-Pro receiver reached an agreement with the New England Patriots in a move first reported by Bleacher Report's Master Tesfatsion. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, it's a one-year contract worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus.
Brown's tenure in Oakland was over before it really began. He went to the Raiders in a March trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers and then signed a three-year, $50.1 million deal. His guaranteed money was voided for conduct detrimental to the team, which prompted Brown to request his release on Instagram:
B/R Gridiron @brgridiron
WED ➖ Antonio Brown posts fine from Raiders on IG ➖ Dispute with GM Mike Mayock, team plans to suspend AB FRI ➖ Brown apologizes, will play Week 1 ➖ Gruden talk posted on YouTube SAT ➖ AB wants release after $29M guarantee voided ➖ “No way” he plays for Raiders https://t.co/hp2es1RH3g
Because of Brown's public dispute with general manager Mike Mayock this week, his frostbitten feet and helmet controversy seem like decades ago. Reading the full timeline of everything that happened during Brown's preseason with the Raiders may take longer than his actual time spent with them.
However, it all played a role in his becoming available for the Patriots. There are worse punishments than joining the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Here is a look at New England's skill players ahead of the team's 2019 season opener against Pittsburgh on Sunday night, though Brown won't be eligible to suit up until Week 2.
Starting Skill Players
Quarterback: Tom Brady
Running Back: Sony Michel
Running Back: James White
Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman
Wide Receiver: Josh Gordon
Wide Receiver: Antonio Brown
Tight End: Matt LaCosse
Yes, Tom Brady is 42 years old. But the six-time Super Bowl winner signed a two-year extension in August and threw for 4,355 yards last year. Place this much talent around him, and he can be just as lethal as he's always been.
Aside from the headline-grabbing receivers, Brady can rely on second-year running back Sony Michel. The 24-year-old is coming off an impressive rookie campaign that saw him record 931 yards and six touchdowns on 209 rushes through 13 games.
In Brown, Brady gets a seven-time Pro Bowler and arguably the NFL's best receiver. Brown set a Steelers record and led the league last season with 15 touchdowns. He has tallied at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last six seasons, leading all receivers twice—in 2014 with 1,698 yards and in 2017 with 1,533 .
If Brown can leave all the drama behind, he will be Brady's No. 1 target.
The Patriots have another wild card in Josh Gordon, who was reinstated on a conditional basis by commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug. 16:
Gordon appeared in 11 games for New England last season and recorded 720 yards and three touchdowns on 40 catches.
Let's not forget reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman. The 33-year-old is the longest-tenured Patriot of Brady's weapons. He has spent his whole career with New England since the franchise drafted him in the seventh round in 2009.
The obvious absence is four-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement March 24. However, the 30-year-old recently nudged the door open for an NFL return at some point. Given what happened Saturday, nothing can be ruled out.
In the meantime, 26-year-old Matt LaCosse will hold down the position in his first season with the Patriots.
The Patriots also have rookie receiver N'Keal Harry as well as former star receiver Demaryius Thomas. The 21-year-old first-rounder will start the season on injured reserve with an ankle injury, while Thomas is expected to suit up Sunday despite a recent hamstring setback.
Bill Belichick is swimming in chesspieces.