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Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Antonio Brown not close in contract talks

There’s a mounting belief that seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown will not return to the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in NFL free agency.

Tampa Bay is the first Super Bowl winner to return all 22 of its starters from the team’s championship season. It continues to have an exceptional offseason under general manager Jason Licht. Even then, the 32-year-old Brown remains on the open market. Now, it looks like he could move on to a new team.

“They want to bring him back, the Bucs do, just at a different number than he has in mind right now,” NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo said.

After some major drama with the Steelers, Raiders and Patriots over the previous couple seasons, Brown returned to form with the Buccaneers in 2021.

He caught 45 passes for 483 yards in eight regular-season games. The stud receiver also kept his nose clean off the field with some help from Tom Brady. With that said, the Buccaneers don’t necessarily have a major need at receiver.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth chart and Antonio Brown

Kansas City Chiefs sign Antonio Brown?
Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) smiles after scoring a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin remain the Buccaneers’ top receivers. They combined for 135 receptions, 1,846 yards and 20 touchdowns a season ago. The two are also expensive.

After placing the franchise tag on Godwin this offseason, the duo is set to count a combined $32.5 million against the 2021 NFL salary cap. For a team that spent big bucks to retain core free agents, Antonio Brown seems to be more of a luxury. With Scott Miller manning the slot and 2020 fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson seen as an ascending talent, that’s magnified even further.

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For Brown himself, the wide receiver’s past transgressions off the field has obviously impacted his stock on the NFL free agent market. He’ll likely draw more interest from teams now that it’s known the seven-time Pro Bowler might not return to Tampa Bay. In fact, one star player is interested in him heading to California.

Time will tell on this front. At least for now, it’s no longer a guarantee Antonio Brown will return to the defending champs in 2021.