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NFL Draft

Is Antonio Brown’s Talent Worth The Trouble For NFL Teams?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 4, 2020
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The NFL loves giving out second, third, fourth, etc., chances but only when it deems a player’s past grievances as no longer problematic. The moral compass seemingly points in only one direction. 

It’s okay for players with domestic violence and sexual assault chargers to return if they are relatively quiet or one of the league’s stars, but the extra attention a player brings onto themselves isn’t welcome—until maybe it is.

Is Antonio Brown’s talent worth the trouble? 

In short, absolutely not. Is a player able to rehabilitate their image, make amends and do the work in and around their community to show a real change? Certainly. Look at Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest pass-catchers to grace the gridiron; he also was accused of domestic violence against his then-girlfriend and son’s mother, who filed for an order of protection against him in 2008. But when Fitzgerald, an 11-time Pro Bowl player and active philanthropist, takes the field, his previous sins are all but forgotten. Can Brown make the same amends? 

Brown’s nine-year stint with the Steelers, who drafted him in the sixth round, 195th overall, in 2010, ended in turmoil. Reports of their fractured relationship emerged at the end of the 2018 season. Brown was eventually traded to the Raiders, resulting in a volcano of turmoil. He was eventually released and was signed that same day by the Patriots. Amid sexual assault and personal misconduct allegations, Brown made his New England debut in Week 2. Later in September, after further allegations and evidence of threatening text messages surfaced, Brown was cut. He hasn’t played in a game since but has continued offseason work.

He most recently worked out with Deion Sanders, who praised Brown’s efforts. 

"My son came to town to work,” Sanders wrote on Instagram over the weekend. “On his game, on his life, on his thoughts, on his tomorrow and on Antonio Brown! I love him to life and I can't wait to witness this comeback story called 'A, B, and See.' I know what I know and pray you all get to see what I know to be true about Antonio Brown. God bless all y'all and please have a productive, peaceful day. We are growing and going!"

Brown has also worked out with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and receiver, his cousin, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. He has also trained with Washington’s Dwayne Haskins recently and in December, worked out with the Saints—although nothing came of that. 

His talent isn’t debatable. In seasons where Brown played 14 games or more, he’s recorded more than 1,100 receiving yards. In 2018, his last full season, he led the league in touchdowns (15). In 2017, he was the NFL leader in receiving yards (1,533) and receiving yards per game (109.5). He’s garnered recent interest from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. According to ESPN radio’s John Clayton, who cited unidentified league sources, Wilson would “love to add” Brown.

If there’s any team culture that Brown would either clash with or make amends in, it’s Seattle’s. Clayton added there’s a 5% chance the Seahawks sign Brown. Seattle has made some questionable choices, in the draft and with its play-calling, but adding Brown to this roster—no matter how talented he is—feels like a stretch. 

But the league as a whole seems to be out of touch on certain issues, and signing Brown would be on-brand. According to Mike Tannenbaum, former general manager turned ESPN analyst, it is a possibility—and plenty of coaches have already sent that precedent; see Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill and Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt as some of the latest examples.

“I absolutely would [sign Brown] and I will tell you why: The object of the exercise is to win as many pro football games as possible," Tannenbaum said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Friday. "You want to do that within reason. You want to do that with people who are either eligible or have had let’s just say bumps in the road, but have paid a price and hopefully are remorseful for their mistakes. There are very limited ways to improve your roster. Everyone has the same amount of salary cap space, everybody in theory starts with the same draft capital. So, I think you have to do your due diligence, you have to understand can you help the person in a meaningful way? Are they remorseful? Are they trying to get better off the field?”

Tannenbaum evoked the Plaxico Burress example during his time with the Jets after he had an arrest with the Giants; Burress pleaded guilty to a firearms charge. Tannenbaum gave chances to Santonio Holmes, who was charged with domestic violence, and Antonio Cromartie, who was facing a possible arrest for child support owed

“We got to a couple of championship games and they were meaningful contributors,”  Tannenbaum added. “It’s not a blanket statement, you have to proceed with caution, but you have to be thorough and you have to say, ‘Hey, is this an opportunity where he can help the team in a meaningful way' and hopefully we can help him learn from his mistakes and grow from it as well."

While the NFL struggles with its image, giving Brown yet another chance would only muddy it more.

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