On Tuesday, star wide receiver Antonio Brown officially cut the chord with the Pittsburgh Steelers and requested a trade. This was a long time coming as Brown’s relationship with the team soured towards the tail end of the regular season and has only intensified since the season came to a close. Now, he’s looking for a new home.
“Thank you SteelerNation for a big 9 years … time to move on and forward,” Brown wrote Tuesday while adding #NewDemands.
Of course, Brown is one of the more prolific receivers to come into the league as he’s posted six consecutive seasons with at least 1,100 yards receiving, 100 receptions and eight touchdowns. Any team in the league would welcome in Brown if he’s happy and willing to come to town and suit up, which likely includes the Patriots.
Despite being the Super Bowl champs, New England does have plenty of needs to fill this offseason and one of those includes adding to their wide receiver depth. As things currently stand, only receivers Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios are under contract for the Pats next season. Not only that, but they do seem to need to add a game-breaking talent now that tight end Rob Gronkowski is either at or close to the end of his career and his skill are diminishing. While they are obviously two different style players, adding someone of Brown’s talent level could help ease the blow of possibly losing Gronk to retirement this offseason.
There’s only one problem: There’s no way in hell the Steelers are trading him to the Patriots.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Pittsburgh will not deal Brown to New England, Baltimore, Cleveland or Cincinnati. This does make sense from the Steelers perspective as it’d be a bad look to ship him off to their most hated rival in the AFC to contend for a Super Bowl or have to face him twice a year in the AFC North.
If and when the Steelers ultimately trade Brown their salary cap is going to be hit pretty hard. If Brown’s traded before March 17 (when he’s also due a $2.5 million roster bonus), Pittsburgh’s dead cap hit will be $21.12 million. If they deal him after that date, that number rises to $23.62 million. Either way you slice it is bad for Pittsburgh from a cap space standpoint. Given that hit that they are about to take, there’s zero chance they’ll send him to a conference rival like the Patriots to make it sting even worse.
What is more likely is that they’ll ship him off to the NFC. The San Francisco 49ers have been the team most rumored to be in on Brown, which would pair him with former Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.