Antonio Brown is returning to the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a reunion with former teammate Tom Brady when Brown played on the New England Patriots briefly.

Brown, who is serving the final two games of an eight-game ban, will be cleared to return beginning in Week 9. With his return date approaching, the former All-Pro receiver is reportedly nearing an agreement to join a Super Bowl contender.

Related: NFL Power Rankings: Steelers top dogs, Buccaneers drop.

NFL rumors: Antonio Brown signing with Buccaneers, reuniting with Tom Brady

The move is a bit shocking, given head coach Bruce Arians shot down any speculation that his team would sign Brown during the summer. Tampa Bay’s head coach cited the lack of room on the roster and the addition was viewed unlikely due to Arians’ past relationship with Brown. In 2019, Arians said Brown called out the All-Pro receiver for being too much of a diva.

For much of the offseason, the expectation was Brown would join the Seattle Seahawks. He has close ties with NFL MVP front runner Russell Wilson and Seattle’s star quarterback endorsed adding Brown’s talent to the receiving corps.

Brown faced obstacles on the road to his return with a looming suspension hanging over his head and a high asking price. Due to missing half the NFL season, paired with his alarming off-field concerns, the price seemingly came down.

Brown’s ongoing suspension may not even be the only discipline he faces from the NFL. He went through a turbulent year, that included  accusations of sexual misconduct by two separate women and he was caught harassing the second on social media. Brown also pleaded “no contest” to assault charges from an incident with a truck driver at his Florida home in January.

The NFL is still conducting its investigation into accusations from Brown’s former trainer Britney Taylor. She accused Brown of sexual misconduct and when the two sides were close to settling the case in July, Brown backed out for the second time.

Antonio Brown’s stats and chemistry with Tom Brady can make huge impact

Tom Brady and Antonio Brown became quick friends during their brief stint together with the New England Patriots. The moment New England signed Brown early in the 2019 season, he bonded with Brady instantly. While the duo played just one game together, the chemistry was obvious.

Despite receiving limited practice time with the Patriots after signing, Brown saw snaps immediately. He saw eight targets in his debut, hauling in four catches for 56 receiving yards and a touchdown. When New England released him following the alarming off-field accusations, Brady was furious and continued to hold it against the organization.

The red flags surrounding Brown’s behavior are evident, concerns that kept him out of the NFL for more than a year and drove teams away this season. However, his stats show why Brady wanted to reunite with him.

Brown posted six consecutive seasons with 1,200-plus receiving yards, 100-plus receptions and eight-plus touchdowns. Even more impressive, he recorded 9,145 total receiving yards over that stretch and led the NFL in receptions (twice), yards (twice) and touchdowns (once) in individual seasons.

He was named a member of the All-Decade Team for the 2010s, earning first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons during his career.

Brady wanted the Buccaneers to sign Brown and spent months convincing the organization it is worth the risk. Notably, this was also Brown’s preferred landing spot.

Related: NFL defense rankings: Saints rise, Patriots plummet entering Week 12.

Brown could see the field in Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints. With a three-receiver set featuring Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Brown, the Buccaneers will boast the best receiving corps in NFL history. Pair that with an elite defense and this team is a Super Bowl contender.

This story has been updated.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick