It’s official: wide receiver Antonio Brown will not be a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2019. According to Brown and the Steelers front office, the four-time All-Pro will be traded at some point during the off-season. Brown’s value is at an all-time low, meaning the New England Patriots are in perfect position to add Brown to their roster.
There’s no denying that Antonio Brown comes with his fair share of baggage, but this could indirectly help the Patriots. Brown’s hitting the market at the perfect time, as head coach Bill Belichick has made a career off of acquiring players for pennies on the dollar. New England has a glaring need at the wide receiver position and has the draft capital to make an Antonio Brown trade irresistible to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Antonio Brown as a Player
Antonio Brown has been in the news for all the wrong reasons since missing Pittsburgh’s season finale. Because of this, some people may forget just how good a player Brown is. The nine-year NFL veteran finished 2018 with 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns. This is terrific production, and it wasn’t a one-year fluke.
Brown has seen an unparalleled amount of success over the last half-decade. Since 2014, Brown has averaged 121 receptions for 1,610 yards and 12 touchdowns over the course of a 16-game season. Nobody else in the league boasts this type of production, and Brown hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Trading for Brown would immediately shore up one of New England’s biggest weaknesses. Outside of Julian Edelman, New England doesn’t have a receiver capable of consistently winning one-on-one matchups. 2018’s receiving core was the weakest link on the team and now Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson are all unrestricted free agents. Josh Gordon, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent who might not even play in 2019. As it is, New England will need to add at least one or two wide receivers via free agency and/or the NFL Draft. By trading for Brown, the Patriots can turn one of their biggest weaknesses into a major strength.
Brown’s Cap Hit
The Patriots historically don’t spend top dollar at the wide receiver position, but they do pay top dollar for elite talent. New England has a reputation for being cheap, but they consistently hand out big contracts to the players who deserve it. The Patriots made Rob Gronkowski and Logan Mankins the highest paid players at their positions and gave Devin McCourty the most guaranteed money to a safety of all time. New England’s genius doesn’t come from not paying stars, but rather by knowing which stars to pay. Brown is certainly one of those stars, and his current contract aligns with the type of value he brings to a team.
Brown was supposed to have a $22.165 million cap hit in 2018. However, once he gets traded, his cap number drops to just $15.125 million. Instead of having the highest cap hit among wide receivers, Brown would have the fifth-highest number behind players like Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, and A.J. Green.
New England currently enters the 2019 off-season with $14.66 million in cap space, per Spotrac. Trading for Brown would put New England over the salary cap, but the Patriots have several moves they could make to increase their spending ability. Tom Brady is entering a contract year, but he should get an extension before the start of the season. Not only will this lock up Brady for the foreseeable future, but it should lower his 2019 cap number. Rob Gronkowski and Devin McCourty have openly discussed retirement, which could save the Patriots up to $19.3 million in cap space. Additionally, cutting Dwayne Allen saves New England $7 million. If the Patriots need to create cap space for Brown, they can do it in a multitude of ways.
Bill Belichick has made a career off of maximizing value and acquiring players for pennies on the dollar. Antonio Brown is still an elite player and his value has never been lower. Everyone knows Brown is about to be traded, and the embattled wide receiver has seemingly done everything in his power to lower his value.
Yes, Brown is a diva who comes with his fair share of drama. Yes, his Twitter account is a hot mess. However, all this off-season noise masks the fact that Brown is one of the best wide receivers in football with an unparalleled work ethic. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin allowed Brown’s antics to poison the entire Steelers franchise, but Bill Belichick has a much better track record with these types of players. Corey Dillon and Randy Moss had similar red flags when they arrived in Foxboro, and it’s safe to say those trades worked out.
Despite maintaining a high level of play, teams around the league are worried about giving up high draft capital for Brown. According to league-wide reports, teams aren’t willing to give up anything more than a mid-round pick for Brown’s services. Brown’s play on the field is easily worth more than a mid-round pick, and Belichick needs to take advantage of his buy-low scenario.
The Steelers are already on record saying that they will not trade with New England, but the Patriots need to make an offer regardless. New England is flush with draft capital heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, boasting six picks in the first three rounds. The Steelers would have a hard time saying no to New England if the Patriots offered the 54th overall pick and nobody else offered anything better than the 90th pick in the draft.
Last Word on the New England Patriots Trading for Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown will play for a different team in 2019, and Bill Belichick should try to bring Antonio Brown over to New England. Brown brings his fair share of drama, but the Patriots are well-equipped to handle that extra baggage. Brown is one of the best receivers in football and is playing on a cost-effective contract.
Trading for Brown is a low-risk, high-reward move for any team in the league, and his price tag has never been lower. Bill Belichick is the best in the league at finding these values, and an Antonio Brown trade could be the latest in Belichick’s long line of fantastic personnel moves. The Patriots culture rubbed off on players like Corey Dillion and Randy Moss, and it should do the same for Brown. Pittsburgh won’t want to send their star receiver to New England, but they’ll have no choice if the Patriots outbid everyone else in an overly-conservative market.
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