10 most likely landing spots for Steelers’ Antonio Brown

By Michael Dixon
Phillip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The teams that need an elite receiver…

Phillip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Brown is still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But his relationship, with his coach, as well as teammates, has seen better days.

Cleveland Browns star Jarvis Landry has done some campaigning. But we just don’t see the Steelers trading Brown in the division. That leaves 28 other teams. Franchise quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo (among others) could all use that elite receiver. The same could be said for the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, who just completed their rookie seasons.

A trade would be much easier said than done. Still, we do have to wonder if one might be coming. And if one does come, where will Brown end up?

 

San Francisco 49ers

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Brown’s social media activity with a 49ers fan page and with star tight end George Kittle (both of which can be seen here) would seem to make San Francisco the favorite, at least in the early going. But this isn’t just a social media issue.

While the 49ers were middle of the road in passing yards, they were largely that “good” because of Kittle’s contribution and playing from behind. In other words, the receiver position is a necessary upgrade. Brown would also open up the field much more for Kittle and the attention he’d draw would make speedsters Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin that much more dangerous on deep balls. The social media stuff is what grabs our attention. But on the field, this is a solid fit.

 

New York Jets

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The Jets have long been done in by a fairly uninspiring offense. Heck, even when New York made consecutive AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010, it was more a matter of a dominant defense and an offense that just didn’t make the huge mistakes. In today’s game — which is even more high scoring — teams need a more formidable offense. That’s where Brown comes in.

In Darnold, the Jets finally have their franchise quarterback. Now it’s time to give him the help he needs on offense. Over the last six seasons, Brown has never had fewer than 104 catches, 1,284 yards, or eight touchdowns. He’s averaged 114 receptions, 1,524 yards, and 11 touchdowns. While that wouldn’t be the only help Darnold would need, we’d certainly call it a good start.

 

Detroit Lions

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While Brown is not from Detroit, he did attend Central Michigan University. So, this would represent something of a homecoming. But this isn’t just about a happy homecoming. This is about the Lions looking to improve their offense, something that’s a real need in the offseason.

We’d surmise that the attention Brown would draw would open things up for the running game. Detroit had a bottom-10 rushing attack in the league this season. Additionally, the Lions had a below averaging passing attack. Detroit had 3,576 passing yards in 2018, good enough for 20th in the league. Obviously the price would be steep. But nobody could blame the Lions if they wanted to pay it and acquire Brown.

 

Buffalo Bills

Courtesy of Charles LeClaire, USA Today Sports

Charles LeClaire, USA Today Sports

Buffalo’s need to revamp the offense is obvious. The Bills were next-to-last in both total passing yards and yards per attempt in 2018. Allen showed some promise in his rookie year. But he needs to become a much better passer going forward. Having a receiver like Brown on the roster would be a huge step towards accomplishing that goal.

To be frank, we’d give this virtually no chance if Brown was a free agent. But on the trade market, it’s a lot more plausible. It’s just a matter of Buffalo meeting whatever Pittsburgh’s demands would be.

 

Seattle Seahawks

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While Seattle had the sixth most passing yards per attempt during the regular season, it also had the sixth fewest total yards. That signifies at least some concern about relying too much on the passing game. That would change with Brown. He’d be a dependable target, would make big plays of his own, and would open things up for Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin. Additionally, Brown’s presence would open things up for the running game.

This will get less likely if Seattle goes on a deep playoff run. The need for such a big change just wouldn’t be there. But if the Seahawks have a short stay in the postseason, then we’d be more likely to see them make the one big move. So, if you’re a defensive coordinator, you almost need to hope for a long playoff run. Imagine having to draw up a defense to go against Brown and Russell Wilson. Good luck.

 

Oakland Raiders

NFL celebration penalties, Antonio Brown

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If the Raiders really go all in on Brown, they’d be hard to beat. They easily have the money to him. Additionally, with three first round draft picks, Oakland can put together a solid trade package. And we can certainly see the Raiders making a big play for Brown. If Jordy Nelson doesn’t return, Oakland will not have a wide receiver on the roster that topped 500 yards in 2018 (though tight end Jared Cook and running back Jalen Richard both did).

What makes this somewhat unlikely is that the Raiders were awful in 2018. As good as Brown is, dealing draft picks (especially first rounders) for one player is generally not wise for a 4-12 team. Then again, neither is trading one of the best defensive players in the league a week before the season starts. Oakland isn’t unwilling to buck trends. That has to put the Raiders at least among the favorites to land Brown.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Antonio Brown is on a mission.

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Nothing in the NFL certain. That said, we’re reasonably confident that the Cardinals won’t be competing for a playoff spot in 2019. But Brown is signed through at least 2020 and his team will have the option to bring him back for 2021. So, this could be seen as something a long-term move. At the very least, it’s not a one-year rental.

Additionally, the Cardinals have Rosen, who just finished his rookie season. Giving some support beyond Larry Fitzgerald (assuming he comes back) is going to be essential in developing the young quarterback. Much like the Buffalo, it would be awfully hard to imagine Brown signing with Arizona right now. But since we’re talking about a trade and the Cardinals, like the Bills, have a raw rookie under center, giving this some real consideration would make sense.

 

Miami Dolphins

Antonio Brown

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There’s an obvious degree of uncertainty in Miami. We don’t know who the coach or quarterback will be. It’s theoretically possible that the Dolphins could elect to rebuild, which would seem to eliminate Brown. We just don’t think it’s that likely. First of all, Miami was 7-9 in 2018. That’s not too far off. If the New England Patriots start to regress, the AFC East will be wide open. Additionally, the buzz is that the Dolphins will make a big play for Jim Harbaugh, which would signify that they want to win in 2019. If that’s going to happen, improving a passing attack that was below average in 2018 would be a big shot in the arm.

Additionally, Brown is from Miami. Now, this is a trade, not a free agent signing. That takes some power out of Brown’s hands. But having a star player as a native of the city is never a bad thing. That, at least in theory, could make the Dolphins willing to pay a bit more.

 

Carolina Panthers

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Carolina has had a middle-of-the-road passing attack for much of Cam Newton’s career. The 2018 season was no different. In fact, the statistically middle-of-the-road passing attack makes the receivers look better than they actually are. Running back Christian McCaffrey led the team in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns.

Brown would open things up for McCaffrey and, if he comes back, tight end Greg Olsen. He would also give Newton a reliable wide receiver, something he hasn’t really had for his entire career. All things considered, Brown would be a pretty nice present to give the franchise quarterback.

 

Indianapolis Colts

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The Colts are similar to the Seahawks in that they’re a playoff team. But Seattle has really identified itself as a rushing team. A strong playoff run could vindicate that, which would make trading for Brown a lot less likely. Indianapolis, though, is a passing team. So even if the Colts win the Super Bowl, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine them being big players in the market for Brown.

There’s definitely a fit. T.Y. Hilton led Indianapolis with 1,270 receiving yards in 2018. Second was tight end Eric Ebron, who had 750. Third was Chester Rodgers, who had 485. That’s a big drop-off between one and two. It’s an even bigger drop between the No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers. Hilton and Brown would be awfully tough on opposing defenses. In the red zone, the attention they’d draw would make us think that Ebron could improve on his 13 touchdown receptions from 2018. If you’re a Colts fan, this is awfully fun to think about. Even better is that it’s realistic.

 

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