As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Pittsburgh Steelers’ All Pro Wide Receiver, Antonio Brown, is expected to be traded as early as this Friday. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapaport, confirmed Schefter’s reporting on the “Brown Sweepstakes” early Wednesday morning; stating on Twitter, “the Steelers have begun telling teams that this is moving quickly and to give their best offers ASAP”, noting negotiations are expected to “wrap up soon.”
Rapaport added that 3 new teams had joined in the running for Brown in the last 48 hours, while suspected potential suitors, the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, had officially withdrawn themselves from negotiations. While the Cardinals were never expected to be seriously interested in Brown, the New York Jets development is especially noteworthy, as it comes less than 24 hours after reports broke the team had made contact with the Steelers regarding a potential deal.
It appears (with the addition of the 3 “new teams”), the Brown sweepstakes now include up to seven interested parties; with the Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, and the Tennessee Titans, expressing the “most interest”, according to Adam Schefter. Other teams rumored to be interested in Brown include the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, and Cleveland Browns.
Long considered the front runners for Brown, the Oakland Raiders, remain the most sensical landing spot for the seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time first team All Pro, as not only do they have three first round picks (4, 25, and 27), they also have $71.2 million in available cap space. Many in Oakland, including Quarterback Derek Carr, have expressed interest in Brown this offseason. Speaking over the weekend at a Valley Children’s Hospital charity event, Carr stated, “I hope he’s in play. It would be great to add a guy like that to your team… the locker room will be arms wide open to accepting Antonio.”
Any deal for Brown is likely to include a significant restructuring of his contract, which currently includes no guaranteed money for his remaining three years, and has the receiver slated to make between $11.6 million and $12.5 million annually through 2021. The Steelers’ asking price for Brown appears to include a minimum of a first-round pick, plus additional compensation.
In his nine seasons with Pittsburgh, Brown never finished with less than 100 catches, 1200 yards and (at least) eight touchdowns in a season. In 2018, Brown finished second on team (behind Juju Smith-Schuster) in receptions with 104, racked up 1,297 total yards and a league-leading 15 touchdown catches in route to his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl. Despite his production, tensions between Brown and the Steelers flared throughout the season; culminating in a week 17 dispute involving quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, which saw him benched for their final game and demanding a trade at the outset of the offseason.
While any agreed upon trade can’t be officially announced until next Wednesday, when the 2019 league year begins, this is unlikely to prevent teams from agreeing to terms before then. An expedited deal makes even more sense when taking into consideration the Steelers’ financial incentive to move Brown, who is owed a $2.5 million roster bonus a week from Wednesday.
While Brown’s tenure in Pittsburgh appears all but over, the opportunity for a much-needed fresh start renders the superstar’s future brighter than ever.