Antonio Brown is reportedly heading back to the NFL.
The wide receiver has reached an agreement on a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal has yet to be finalized, but Brown is reportedly set up for a debut in Week 9 against the New Orleans Saints, one week after the end of his eight-game suspension.
Update: Antonio Brown and the Buccaneers have reached agreement on a one-year deal, per sources.
Language still has to be finalized, COVID protocols passed, but Brown is likely to make his Bucs’ debut in Week 9 against the Saints.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 23, 2020
Signing with the Buccaneers would reunite Brown, who is suspended through Week 8, with Tom Brady, the last quarterback to throw him a pass in an NFL game and a reported proponent of signing Brown in Tampa Bay.
The one-year deal is effectively a rental for a player with an extensive track record of on-field success and off-field instability. Brown’s contract reflects that. He reportedly signed for just over the minimum, but can earn more through incentives, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Antonio Brown’s NFL hiatus coming to an end
Brown hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since his lone game with the New England Patriots in Week 2 of last season. Before that, he had forced his way out of both the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers while burning every bridge in sight.
The Patriots released Brown after sexual assault and rape allegations against the receiver came to light, and he hasn’t been on an NFL roster since. The NFL went out of its way to ensure Brown would stay out of the league by threatening to place him on the commissioner’s exempt list should a team sign him.
Brown’s erratic behavior only continued after his release. He pleaded no contest this summer to felony burglary conveyance, misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor criminal mischief after an altercation with a moving truck driver in January, and that wasn’t the end of his incidents.
Browns eventually started apologizing to a number of past acquaintances and employers, and speculation around his comeback soon began. Workouts with Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens and Dwayne Haskins of the Washington Football Team fueled that speculation. Jackson and Wilson have both lobbied to sign the receiver. Wilson did so as recently as a day ago.
Unlike most suspensions, Brown’s was actually welcome news for the player, as it gave him a date the NFL would actually allow him to return. Now, he’s set to join a contender for the second half of the season and beyond.
Bruce Arians was publicly against signing Brown
While Brady was in favor of signing Brown, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians had been another case.
When asked about possibly bringing Brown aboard in March, Arians was blunt:
“Yeah, it’s not gonna happen,” Arians said. “There’s no room. And probably not enough money. But it’s not gonna happen — it’s not a fit here.”
Arians added that he believed Brown wasn’t “a fit for our locker room,” and it’s not hard to see why a coach would be apprehensive about bringing in a player with Brown’s history.
According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Brady’s advocacy and injuries to the Bucs’ receiving corps were enough to change Arians’ mind.
Antonio Brown gives Tom Brady another weapon
Most players wouldn’t get another chance in the NFL if they pulled what Brown has in the last year and a half, but Brown is obviously not like most players.
Prior to his exit from Pittsburgh, Brown was arguably the best wide receiver in football. In six seasons between 2013 and 2018, Brown averaged 114.3 catches, 1,524 receiving yards and 11.2 touchdowns per year.
Some of those skills might have faded at age 32 and after a year out of the league, but even a fraction of Brown’s past production would give Brady another devastating target alongside Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard at full strength.
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