After a meeting with Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II, the cat is officially out of the bag in Pittsburgh: Antonio Brown has played his last down in Pittsburgh.
With Brown’s talent elevating him in a class of his own, it’s inevitable most teams in the league will at least place a phone call about the availability of Brown. While his trade value varies depending on who you speak with, the interest Brown generates leaves the Steelers with plenty of potential suitors for their bachelor gone bad.
So where should Brown be dealt?
Per every big decision, the best possible outcome will come with heavy thought and debate, as all options will be weighed greatly. Who will provide the most compensation? Will the Steelers have to see Brown more than once per season? Is any team willing to move heavy draft capital to acquire him? This was something discussed in a recent episode of Mic Drop as well.
These are all questions GM Kevin Colbert and the rest of the front office will have to face in the coming months. Brown’s potential trade suitors are as much of a wildcard as his social media postings. Are the rest of the 31 teams in the NFL up for play?
Narrowing potential trade destinations in search of a winner for the Antonio Brown sweepstakes:
Teams We Can (Almost) Guarantee Won’t Be Contenders
It’s highly unlikely the Steelers will want to trade Brown within the division, immediately improving a team they will see twice a season and will almost directly impact playoff implications. To picture Brown facing the Steelers bi-annually while playing in the likes of Baltimore, Cincinnati or Cleveland seems almost blasphemous, as Pittsburgh’s front office will likely hang up the phone on any division foe that calls.
Outside of the division, almost all teams are in play thanks to being outside the AFC North. Yet two teams that can be seen as potential roadblocks rest within the AFC: New England and Kansas City. Trading Brown to either destination appears unlikely, as the Steelers are still trying to capitalize on their Super Bowl window before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retires.
While Brown to the Patriots appears unlikely, New England was reportedly making big pushes for Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last season per Chris Simms of NBC Sports. Kansas City actually offers interesting receiver depth in return for Brown, yet it might not be tempting enough to potentially see Brown twerking in the end zone against Pittsburgh late in January.
Teams eliminated: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots
Teams With Little/No Cap Space For Brown
Immediately after Brown announced his meeting with Rooney, his Instagram live rant provides a little insight into what a new contract the 31 year old receiver would be looking for:
“If your team got guaranteed money, they want to get to know me and work with me, tell them call me.”- Brown on Instagram Live
Perhaps Brown was inspired by listening to Wu-Tang Clan’s “CREAM” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) before hitting the record button, but the receiver appears serious about wanting guaranteed money moving forward.
Should the Steelers decide to deal Brown during the first five days of the league’s new year (March 13-17), the organization will have to eat $21 million in dead cap space. Should Brown be dealt after June 1, the Steelers would be able to spread his dead money to $9.54 million in 2019, and $14.08 million in 2020, per ESPN‘s Dan Graziano.
With his 2018 salary converted to a signing bonus, Brown will not see any more guaranteed money moving forward unless a restructured deal occurs. Brown is scheduled to annually make the following on the last three years of his contract:
2019- $12.6 million
2020- $11.3 million
2021- $12.5 million
With guaranteed money being a top priority for Brown (or at least an annual salary matching a player of his caliber), cap space will be a big priority for a team wanting to land Brown.
For the sake of hypothetical and this article, we will have to assume a team’s cap number as of now will stay around the same, since we cannot predict moves to free up space. In the likely scenario Antonio sees a restructured deal in a trade, a team would likely need around $20 million or more in cap space to comfortably add Brown to the roster when factoring in guaranteed money as well.
Eight teams, per Spotrac.com, do not have the preferred cap space* to add Brown to their roster ($20 million or more in space) and thus have been eliminated as potential landing spots for Brown.
*Cap number is a hypothetical “safe” estimate, reflects current figure, and does not account for future moves.
Teams eliminated: Carolina Panthers ($15 million), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($15 million), Miami Dolphins ($11.3 million), New Orleans Saints ($6.5 million), Chicago Bears ($5.9 million), Minnesota Vikings ($5.8 million), Philadelphia Eagles ($-1.7 million) and the Jacksonville Jaguars ($-2.4 million)
Teams Who Likely Will Not Seek Antonio Brown
Cap space and out of division? Congratulations on advancing to the next phase of selections.
Now, we will focus our efforts on teams who don’t essentially need an Antonio Brown on their team, whether it be for receiving depth or needing to spend cap space for other needs.
The Dallas Cowboys are primed to ink Amari Cooper to a wealthy extension, while also needing to focus on DeMarcus Lawrence’s impending deal as well. (Not to mention that Earl Thomas guy they like, too). While anything is up for discretion with owner Jerry Jones, Dallas probably won’t be fighting for the rights to AB.
The Los Angeles Rams have perhaps the best receiving trio in professional football, with Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp on the roster. As much as Hollywood would love to welcome Brown, the Rams will focus their efforts on keeping key pieces to ensure they’re capable of making a few more Super Bowl runs.
The Denver Broncos have been rumored to be a potential destination for Brown, yet Broncos analyst/personality Ben Allbright confirmed on “Orange and Blue 760 AM” that Brown would not end up in Denver. With receiver Emmanuel Sanders exchanging shots with Brown over Twitter, the Broncos may not be warming up for an idea of a reunion anytime soon for the two former teammates.
The Indianapolis Colts are heavy favorites to land Brown, if not his teammate Le’Veon Bell, due to the insane amount of cap space ($107.5 million ready to spend) in 2019. What’s stopping Indianapolis? GM Chris Ballard and his comments to ESPN’s 1070 The Fan about wanting “team first” players while being accountable, which doesn’t exactly describe Brown at this moment.
While a OBJ/AB receiving duo would be remarkably awesome to watch, it’s hard to envision New York doubling down on the problems they currently have with Beckham, especially with trade rumors that nearly saw the Giants wave goodbye to him last season. With the potential of clashing personalities and an entire bankroll sunk into their receiving corps, the Giants would likely pass to have business boom in the big apple.
Another dream scenario would see Brown landing in Atlanta to team up with Julio Jones, yet some would prefer Brown take his ventures elsewhere. “Nah man, we tight over here. We good over here”. Who muttered those words? Why Julio himself when asked by TMZ Sports in January. With the Falcons looking for help on the defensive side of the football in free agency and a receiving corps that already features Jones/Calvin Ridley for the future, Atlanta doesn’t appear to be in play.
The Los Angeles Chargers have nearly zero connections between them and Brown, as a receiving corps of Keenan Allen/Mike Williams/Travis Benjamin will make do as the Chargers will look to spend money in other places. Not to mention, Derwin James and Joey Bosa will be looking at some pretty pennies in the future as well.
Teams eliminated: Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers
Teams With Lesser Draft Capital
We have now trimmed our list to just 11 lucky potential teams left in this make-shift matchmaking game show for the talents of Antonio Brown.
From this point forward, all teams have the potential cap space (as of now) for Brown and somewhat of a place/need for him as well.
With Pittsburgh shying away from spending big in free agency every off-season, it’s almost assumed acquiring draft capital will be a focal point in trade talks.
This eventually circles back to what compensation the Steelers would potentially want in exchange for Brown. Opinions will fly everywhere for Brown’s true trade value, but sources have been adamant to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the team will be patient through the process and will want a “high draft pick” in exchange for Brown.
The term “high draft pick” is entirely open to interpretation, yet it’s tough to imagine the Steelers wanting to settle for anything outside of the top 100 picks in the draft, or less than a third round pick.
Some teams have a tremendous amount of capital, while others barely have any to make it to final cuts. It’s definitely not out of the picture for the teams listed below, yet their stock in the 2019 NFL Draft might not be as exciting as other options and provide less wiggle-room in terms of draft picks:
The Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one overall pick, and don’t appear to be shy about trading it away. However, if the Cardinals were to somehow include this years number one pick in trade talks, the Steelers would hang up the phone immediately and do cartwheels all the way down to the league office. With Arizona unlikely to deal the first pick and only having two others in the first three rounds, Brown just might be able to avoid the desert.
The Buffalo Bills have been talked about as a destination for Brown, but only from Steelers fans who wish for him to suffer. The Bills have a young quarterback with a rocket arm, cap space and plenty of room in the receiving corps for Brown to get his. The problem? Buffalo only holds all three original picks in the first three rounds.
Detroit may be an under the radar team to grab Brown if they were interested in back either Kenny Golladay or Marvin Jones in a package back to Pittsburgh. However, when talking pure draft stock, the Lions don’t roar like other potential suitors. With the Lions third round pick swapped with the Patriots, the value of draft position doesn’t bode well for Detroit in this specific scenario.
Antonio Brown has been very sneaky about his desire to be in San Francisco, although the likes of Jerry Rice have been vocal about AB wanting to be in SF. In a similar situation to the Cardinals, it’s unlikely the second overall pick is in play for Pittsburgh, leaving only two other picks to work with in trade negotiations.
The Seattle Seahawks are also an interesting option for the Steelers, yet only boast two picks in the first three rounds thanks to a trade with the Houston Texans, sacrificing their second round pick. With picks no. 21 and 85 in play, that might be enough to turn off the Steelers if they’re looking for a deal with multiple picks/package deal.
Tennessee is in need of another receiving option across from Corey Davis, and AB might be the elixir to get quarterback Marcus Mariota going in 2019. With the Titans just one pick ahead of Pittsburgh in all three rounds being considered in this scenario, that could make for some interesting dialogue between the two teams. However, with no extra picks, greener pastures are out there for Pittsburgh if draft capital is the main source of trade value.
The Redskins are the final team to not make the last cut of potential teams to trade for Brown, although there exists a need for a true number one receiver in Washington. With the Skins likely looking at quarterback at some point in the early rounds, it’d take a lot for Washington to part ways with one of their picks, even if it means acquiring one of the best pass-catchers in the league.
Teams eliminated: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins
The Top Four Trade Destinations For Antonio Brown Are…
Green Bay Packers– The Packers currently tout a little over $34 million in cap space to use, and with Aaron Rodgers’ days beginning to be numbered, a Super Bowl is on the mind for everybody in Green Bay. Pairing Brown opposite of Davante Adams would be a nightmare for defensive coordinators, and with the Packers totaling 4 picks in the top three rounds (2 firsts), Green Bay may be a little more willing to wheel and deal if it means getting one of the best in the game.
Houston Texans– Speaking of seeing two top receivers in the same area, Houston just might have enough fire power to slot Antonio Brown next to DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans are in possession of four picks in the top 100, including back to back picks in the middle of the second round. Could Brown be the last infinity stone to Houston’s gauntlet? $75 million in cap space could take care of Jadeveon Clowney and spot Brown some nice change as well.
New York Jets– With over $100 million in cap space for 2019, an opening for a number one receiver, an up and coming young quarterback and playing in one of the biggest media-driven cities on the planet, AB would be able to fit right in for the Jets’ spotlight. Two third round picks and a total of four in the top 100 could give the Jets the firepower to secure a franchise receiver for their franchise quarterback.
Oakland Raiders– While the Raiders are still trying to figure out where they will play for 2019, Oakland currently hold the keys to what is the most important off-season in a long time for the franchise. Five picks in the first three rounds topped off with three in the first? Need a replacement for Amari Cooper? The draft is for Oakland’s taking, and with nearly $70 million in wiggle room for cap space, the Raiders present the biggest, glorious trade destination to send Antonio Brown packing for.