Antonio Brown

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Extend Antonio Brown, Franchise Le’Veon Bell

On February 27, 2017, things were looking pretty good in Pittsburgh. Following a 2016 campaign that saw the Steelers make it to the AFC Championship, the organization committed to two of their offensive stars on the same day. On this date four years ago, the organization extended wideout Antonio Brown and franchised running back Le’Veon Bell. No one knew at the time that both these players would soon be playing for different teams.

By 2017, the two duo had already proven themselves among the top players at their respective positions. Brown was coming off four-straight campaigns that saw him surpass 1,000 yards receiving, and he hauled in 43 touchdowns during that four-year span. There had yet to be much drama for the perennial Pro Bowler; while a 2016 locker-room video led to discipline, Brown had otherwise been a good soldier. As a result, the Steelers felt more than comfortable making him the (then) highest-paid pass-catcher of all-time. The wideout ended up inking a lucrative four-year extension worth $68MM ($19MM guaranteed) that would last through the 2021 season.

“Antonio is a good guy, a good person,” team president Art Rooney II said at the time. “I enjoy our personal relationship. His teammates like to have him on the team. He is a hard worker.

“AB is a big contributor to our success, has been for several years now, and I think he’s capable of continuing to be that kind of player. I think he’s someone who wants to be a great player and works hard to be that. Hopefully, he’ll continue to evolve as a player and as a person.”

Despite only appearing in 12 games during the 2016 season, Bell still put up some gaudy numbers. He finished the campaign with 1,884 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl spot. While the two sides were eager to figure out a long-term deal, the Steelers ultimately placed the franchise tag on their star running back, locking him into a $12MM salary for 2017. After becoming the fastest player in NFL history to hit 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,500 career receiving yards, coach Mike Tomlin said at the time that the team wanted to reward their running back for his continued improvement.

“Just understanding how to play the position, the nuances of the position, the protection of the ball, the protection of himself,” the head coach said. “He is a guy that has got some talent, but equally or more important than that he has a desire to be great and a work ethic to boot. He is a much better conditioned athlete today that he was in 2014. I mean it when I say all areas.”

2017 proved to be a fine year for Brown, Bell, and the Steelers. Both players earned Pro Bowl nods after combining for 3,479 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns en route to a 13-win campaign. The wheels fell off soon after. During the 2018 offseason, the Steelers once again slapped the franchise tag on Bell, but the running back refused to sign the tender. Despite occasional reports of reconciliation and a potential long-term extension, Bell’s hold out ended up lasting the entire season. He became a free agent the following offseason and inked a four-year deal with the Jets.

Brown was productive again in 2018, finishing with a career-high 15 receiving touchdowns. However, there started to be some reports of tension toward the end of that campaign. Brown apparently engaged in an argument with Ben Roethlisberger and skipped practices before their Week 17 content, leading to Brown’s benching. We later learned that Brown had become disgruntled with his role in Pittsburgh and wanted a trade. The Steelers agreed that a breakup was necessary, and they dealt Brown to the Raiders during the 2019 offseason.

Things haven’t necessarily gone swimmingly for either player since leaving Pittsburgh. Bell’s stint in New York last less than two seasons, and after cutting cut in October, he settled into a minor backup role with the Chiefs. Brown’s stint with the Raiders barely last six months; following bizarre behavior and arguments with executives, he was released by the team. He subsequently joined the Patriots, but he was cut following allegations of sexual misconduct. Following a retirement, an un-retirement, another retirement, and another un-retirement, Brown was slapped with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He caught on with the Buccaneers in October, and he ended up hauling in two playoff touchdowns during Tampa Bay’s path to a Super Bowl championship (which somewhat ironically came against Bell’s Chiefs).

The Steelers struggled a bit during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, combining for only 17 wins between the two seasons. They got back to their winning ways in 2020, finished 12-4 before losing in the Wild Card game.

When these transactions were completed four years ago today, there was plenty of excitement for both the players and the team. We’re sure neither side anticipated how both of these scenarios would ultimately play out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Notes: Brady, JPP, Brown

There are several high-profile Buccaneers that have undergone offseason surgery already. According to head coach Bruce Arians, five-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady has gone under the knife to clean up the knee issue we heard about several weeks ago (Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe). Though Brady will not be ready to participate in team drills until June, the fact that Tampa is willing to discuss an extension with him suggests the club is not particularly worried about his prognosis.

Meanwhile, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul underwent a knee surgery of his own today, as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com passes along. JPP had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee in July, and he landed on the injury report throughout the 2020 season as a result of the injury. Still, he didn’t miss a game and led the Bucs with 9.5 regular season sacks, so he will head into a contract year with plenty of momentum and, hopefully, a clean bill of health.

On a related note, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that RB Ronald Jones recently had a pin removed from his broken left pinky finger, which required surgery in December. Jones played through the injury and finished off a successful third pro season. After a disappointing rookie year, Jones is living up to his status as a former second-rounder and, like JPP, has a good chance to set himself up for a big payday if he can replicate his 2020 performance in 2021.

Here are a few more notes on the defending champs:

  • As you know by now, the Bucs have a number of big-name free agents, which could make this offseason a difficult one for GM Jason Licht to navigate. The team has made it clear that it wants to bring back players like WR Chris Godwin and LB Lavonte David, and it sounds like Godwin might be willing to offer Tampa a hometown discount. Fellow wideout Mike Evans has also expressed a willingness to take a paycut, but Arians isn’t sure that outside FAs will be willing to take less than market value just for the opportunity to play with Brady and the Bucs. “Dollars still talk,” the 68-year-old HC said (Twitter link via Greg Auman of The Athletic). Because of how many in-house priorities Tampa has, Arians suggested his club might not be especially active in the free agent market anyway.
  • In addition to Evans’ willingness to make a personal sacrifice to keep the band together, there are a number of other players who are open to restructuring their own deals, per Arians (Twitter link via Stroud). Such restructures would not result in less money for those players, but it would open up more cap space for the Bucs to retain most, if not all, of their top FAs.
  • Another free agent the Bucs want to keep, Antonio Brown, obviously has off-field matters to tend to. Britney Taylor’s lawsuit against Brown is set for trial in December, and as Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic writes, Taylor wants to subpoena copies of all documentation the Bucs have related to Brown (she is subpoenaing Brown’s three former teams as well). Taylor is not seeking to depose any team executives, and she needs court approval to send the subpoenas.

Antonio Brown Wants To Return To Bucs

We’ve got one more for you in a slew of Bucs posts following their Super Bowl win. We had already heard a few weeks ago that Tampa was interested in bringing Antonio Brown back next year, and it sounds like that interest is mutual.

Speaking after the Buccaneers’ dominant win over the Chiefs, Brown said he wants to do another round with Tom Brady. “Man I’d love to, I look forward to going through the process, this is a great spot for me and I would love to come back and give it another shot at a two-peat,” Brown said after the game, via Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports. “I would love to be back here next year. It would mean everything to be back. I’m just excited and super grateful.”

Brown is set to be a free agent, and it’ll be very interesting to see what kind of contract he lands this offseason. On the one hand he’s an incredibly accomplished and talented receiver who just helped his team win a Super Bowl. On the other hand, he’s got a long list of off-field issues hanging over his head, he’ll turn 33 this summer, and he put up solid but certainly not spectacular numbers this past season.

In eight games with the Bucs in 2020 after sitting out the first half of the season due to a suspension, he finished with 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns. That would put him on pace for a 90/966/8 line if he had played a full 16 games. Again, respectable, but not the kind of All-Pro numbers he was routinely putting up with the Steelers prior to his trade to the Raiders and subsequent implosion. He had five catches for 22 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Obviously a large part of that was due to playing in an offense with a lot of mouths to feed with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans among others also present. Either way, he’s not likely to command the kind of hefty contract he would’ve gotten had he hit the open market after the 2018 season. Bruce Arians seems to think they won’t have too much trouble fitting everyone in financially, and Evans is apparently willing to take a pay cut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate Dealing With Back Discomfort

It sounds like Cameron Brate may be a bit banged up heading into the Super Bowl. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Buccaneers tight end was a limited participant at practice Thursday due to a back injury. Rapoport adds that the ailment was described as “back discomfort,” and Brate “was pulled out of an abundance of caution.”

Brate felt better on Friday and, despite being listed as questionable, is expected to play Sunday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Thanks in part to the addition of Rob Gronkowski, Brate put up some of the lowest numbers of his career in 2020, compiling 28 receptions for 282 yards and two scores. However, the 29-year-old has seen a more significant role in the playoffs. After collecting five or more targets in only two of his 16 regular season games, Brate has seen at least five targets in each of his three postseason contests, hauling in 11 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown.

If Brate were to be sidelined for the Super Bowl, Gronk would likely soak up most of Brate’s snaps. With O.J. Howard sitting on IR, the Bucs could also hypothetically turn to Antony Auclair or Tanner Hudson.

There is some good news on the injury front for Tampa Bay. Rapoport adds that wideout Antonio Brown was a full participant at practice. The 32-year-old sat out the NFC Championship as he nursed a knee injury. Brown appeared in eight games for the Buccaneers this season, compiling 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Antonio Brown, Sammy Watkins On Track For Super Bowl

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins participated in the Chiefs’ Wednesday practice, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Meanwhile, the Bucs also had one of their most dangerous weapons on hand. Antonio Brown practiced with the Buccaneers, though he was kept to light work as he recovers from a knee injury. 

Watkins has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie campaign with the Bills back in 2014. Despite that, he remains a serious threat for any opposing defense. This year, Watkins was limited to nine regular season games and finished out with a modest 37/421/2 stat line. If his calf heals up in time for the Super Bowl, it’ll mark his first appearance in this year’s playoffs.

Brown missed the NFC championship game, but the Buccaneers still managed to edge the Packers and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. In the regular season, the 32-year-old caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns. His best game came in Week 17, when he hauled in eleven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns as Mike Evans was held out.

Fortunately, Brown did not suffer serious structural damage, so the Bucs are hopeful that he can play. It also helps that they kept him grounded a couple of weeks ago to prevent additional swelling at higher altitude. If things keep going in this direction, Brown will be cleared for the second Super Bowl of his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Want To Re-Sign Antonio Brown

Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown will miss today’s NFC Championship Game due to a knee injury, but apparently Tampa Bay likes what it has seen so far. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Bucs want to bring AB back in 2021 (video link).

At this point, there’s no need to rehash all of the events that led to Brown’s signing a modest one-year pact with the Bucs in October (if you want to relive the drama, just click on Brown’s tag at the bottom of this post). Suffice it to say, the 32-year-old has managed to stay out of trouble since he hooked on with Tampa, and between that and his on-field performance, he has convinced the Bucs that a re-up is a good idea.

Of course, the civil lawsuit stemming from the rape allegation levied against Brown is still pending and is currently set for trial on December 6, 2021. The league has made it clear that any new evidence that might emerge from that case — and there will be pre-trial depositions where such evidence could come to light — may lead to another suspension, which could make teams even warier of signing him than they otherwise would be.

The Bucs, though, appear prepared to take that chance. Tampa has a number of high-profile free agents to make decisions on, including WR Chris Godwin. Theoretically, the team could elect to part ways with Godwin and move forward with Brown, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson behind top target Mike Evans.

For the season, Brown caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four TDs in eight games. And he showed he can still light it up when called upon to handle a heavy workload. Filling in for an injured Evans in Week 17, Brown appeared in a season-high 84% of Tampa’s offensive snaps and tallied 11 catches for 138 yards and two TDs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Antonio Brown To Miss NFC Title Game

The knee injury Antonio Brown suffered against the Saints will keep him out of Sunday’s Buccaneers-Packers game. The Bucs ruled out their hired-gun wideout for the NFC championship game.

Brown has not shown too much of his Steelers-era form this season but has certainly proven valuable for the Bucs, who have assembled one of the highest-profile skill-position cadres in recent NFL history. Brown’s absence will mean more work for younger players Scott Miller and Tyler Johnson alongside Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. Brown did not practice this week.

I just talked to him this morning, and to put him on the plane and fly up there and have it swell more doesn’t make any sense,” Bruce Arians said Friday, via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine. “He wasn’t as close as we’d hoped, so we’ll get him ready for the next one.”

For the season, the 32-year-old receiver caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns. Brown’s best game came in Week 17, when the Bucs lost Evans to a knee injury. Evans did not miss any additional time, returning for Tampa Bay’s playoff opener in Washington. Like Evans, Brown did not suffer serious structural damage. Should the Bucs upset the Packers, Brown would have two weeks to recover before what would be the second Super Bowl of his career.

The Bucs had not yet signed Brown when they routed the Packers in Week 6. Miller took a backseat to Brown once the Bucs signed the polarizing talent but put together a 501-yard season (15.2 per catch). A rookie fifth-rounder, Johnson added 169 yards and two TDs off the bench this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown is considered day-to-day with a knee injury, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Brown was forced to the sidelines on Sunday against the Saints, but his Tuesday MRI showed that he has not suffered any serious structural damage (via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com). 

[RELATED: Bucs Designate Vita Vea For Return]

Brown was limited to just 27 snaps against New Orleans, but the Bucs still managed to come away with the 30-20 victory. The Bucs hope to have Brown in action this Sunday as they take on the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

AB might not be the player that he once was, but he’s still an explosive receiver who can stress any defense. The potential for a monster game is still there, as shown in the Bucs’ regular season finale against the Falcons. Brown hauled in eleven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, his best showing since joining Tampa Bay in Week 9.

Through two playoff games this year, Brown has totaled three grabs for 59 yards and one score. For his career, the multiple-time All-Pro has amassed 54 catches for 896 yards and five TDs in the postseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Brown, Brady

Previously slated to return in Week 14, Christian McCaffrey has run into another setback. The All-Pro Panthers running back suffered a quadriceps injury during the team’s bye week, and Matt Rhule said it tightened up during Wednesday’s practice, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Rhule pointed to an offsite workout for the cause of McCaffrey’s latest malady, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. A high ankle sprain and a shoulder ailment have limited McCaffrey to just three games this season. Rhule said earlier this week McCaffrey was set to play against the Broncos on Sunday. This latest update could change that status. Given McCaffrey’s long-term importance to the Panthers, it would not exactly surprise at this juncture if the team opted to hold him out for the rest of the season. But it is too early to tell on that front, and Rhule said Wednesday that McCaffrey wants to return as soon as possible.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • The Panthers placed eight players on their reserve/COVID-19 list this week after two tested positive for the coronavirus. This appears to have stemmed from an outside gathering of players, with NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills indicating a bye-week gathering led to the virus cases, via Person (on Twitter). Seven of those players — including starters Shaq Thompson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Derrick Brown — remain on Carolina’s COVID list.
  • Antonio Brown should be in the clear on finishing the 2020 season, and a recent change for his civil trial date could affect his 2021 free agency. A Florida judge moved the Buccaneers wide receiver’s trial date — for a civil case stemming from Britney Taylor’s rape allegation — to Dec. 6, 2021, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The NFL suspended Brown eight games this season, but Taylor’s allegation did not factor into that ban. The Taylor suit threatens to lead to another Brown ban, but that issue will be tabled for a while.
  • Tom Brady‘s assimilation to Bruce Arians‘ offense has not gone especially smoothly, despite the future Hall of Famer’s sporadic success in his first Bucs season. Particularly, the bevy of deep passes Arians’ offense calls for have resulted in Brady struggling as of late. From Weeks 8-11, Brady was just 5% (1-for-19) on passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air, and ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine notes the Bucs staff had discussed adjusting the offense before their bye week. Arians said recently coverage recognition, and not ability, contributed more to Brady’s deep-ball issues. It will be interesting to see if the staff made larger-scale changes to the offense during the bye, considering Brady’s penchant for quick-strike, shorter passes. The Bucs, who have lost back-to-back games, will face the Vikings on Sunday.
  • The Falcons are set to interview Saints assistant GM Terry Fontenot for their GM post. One of three known candidates to succeed Thomas Dimitroff, Fontenot has been with the Saints for more than 15 years.

NFC South Notes: AB, Bridgewater, Saints

Antonio Brown being accused of vandalizing a security camera has placed the Buccaneers in a bit of hot water, but Bruce Arians confirmed the team knew about this alleged incident before signing him. The second-year Bucs HC reiterated during an interview with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (audio link) that Brown not being a model citizen will result in his release. “He’s been a model citizen,” Arians said Thursday, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. “I think we’re beating a dead horse right now, so there’s been enough statements about it.” Arians said in March that Brown would not be a fit with the Bucs, but Tom Brady pushed for the team to make the move. Through two games with the Bucs, AB has 10 catches for 100 yards.

The NFL was not made aware of this incident before the Bucs signed Brown, who was not charged due to the homeowners association not pressing charges. The league, per Laine, is now looking into the matter, which could be determined as a violation of Brown’s probation. Although the NFL handed Brown an eight-game suspension, the league could move to levy another ban depending on the outcome of Britney Taylor’s civil suit. Taylor’s three-page affidavit alleges Brown raped her. The controversial wideout is again part of a multifront NFL investigation.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Teddy Bridgewater is now expected to join Christian McCaffrey in not suiting up for the Panthers‘ Week 11 game. Carolina’s QB1 has practiced on a limited basis this week, with Matt Rhule labeling him “extremely limited,” and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets the team is expected to require one of its backup passers to start against the Lions. Bridgewater suffered an MCL injury in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ loss to the Buccaneers. XFL 2.0 standout P.J. Walker has replaced Bridgewater twice this season, but both he and 2019 third-round pick Will Grier have worked as the Panthers’ game-day backup. They have split reps in practice this week, and Rhule — via ESPN.com’s David Newton — declined to say who would start if Bridgewater cannot go.
  • If the 2021 salary cap comes in at that $175MM floor, the Saints are projected to be a whopping $95MM over that salary ceiling. While the Mickey Loomis-led operation annually finds a way to navigate cap issues, this would be new territory. This situation has flummoxed several execs around the league, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who adds the current NFL management council cap figure being used for projections ($198MM) is much higher than where the actual number is expected to land. Multiple GMs expect the cap to come in around $175MM, which would mark by far the biggest reduction in the cap’s 28-year history and create tremendous issues for the Saints and a few other teams.
  • Drew Brees is expected to be out at least two games, though the future Hall of Fame quarterback has sought additional opinions this week. He is believed to have cracked at least five ribs.