Antonio Brown is planning to make his debut today for an arena football league, but if his agent is to be believed, it won’t be long until the wideout is taking the field for an NFL squad. Agent JR Rickert told Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports that Brown is generating interest around the league.
“He is exploring the right fit,” his agent said earlier this week. Rickert also described the interest as “genuine.”
Brown, of course, hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since Week 17 of the 2021 season, when he famously stormed off the field following an argument with Buccaneers coaches. The receiver later claimed that the Buccaneers were trying to cover up an ankle injury that would ultimately require surgery. Since then, Brown has had a number of troubling incidents, including a pair of arrest warrants. He remained unsigned through the 2022 season.
Those off-field issues would likely result in an NFL suspension, and considering his tumultuous tenure in Tampa Bay, it wouldn’t be surprising if NFL teams figure Brown isn’t worth the trouble. The former All-Pro receiver hasn’t put together top-end production since the 2018 campaign, although when he last saw the field in 2021, his 77.9 yards per game marked his highest average in years. Brown ultimately finished that campaign with 42 catches for 545 yards and four touchdowns in seven games (three starts).
Earlier this offseason, Brown became the majority owner of the Albany Empire of the National Arena League team. Following that purchase, Brown made it clear that he was retiring from the NFL, but he later reversed course and teased a potential return. Brown also surprisingly reported to an Albany Empire practice this week and indicated that he’ll be playing this weekend.
That NAL appearance isn’t only intended to bump interest in the team and league, per Rickert. It’s also going to give scouts an opportunity to see what Brown has in the tank.
“I think that he is a multi-talented individual who does everything at a high level,” Rickert said, “and whatever he commits to, he goes all in.”
December 2: In an update on the situation from last night, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes that Brown remains in his home despite continued urging by police to surrender himself. Authorities have been in contact with Brown’s attorney, but they have not yet yielded a peaceful outcome with respect to detainment.
December 1: The Hillsborough (Fla.) County Sherriff’s Office issued a domestic violence arrest order for former All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, according to Fox 13’s Scott Smith (on Twitter).
Brown, 34, is being charged with misdemeanor domestic battery, Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. This is in connection with an incident that occurred on Nov. 28, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes. The former Steelers, Raiders, Patriots and Buccaneers wideout has been out of the league since January, when the Bucs cut ties with him.
This incident involves the mother of four of Brown’s children, Aaron Mesmer of Fox 13 reports (on Twitter). The woman said Brown locked her out of her Tampa home and threatened to shoot her. She also accuses Brown of tossing her belongings and throwing a shoe at her. Brown, whom Mesmer adds refused a request from the Tampa Police Department to come out of the house, is not believed to be in police custody yet.
This arrest order comes more than two years after Brown was sentenced to two years probation following charges of battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief — stemming from allegations he assaulted a delivery driver. That incident occurred after Brown missed almost all of the 2019 season due largely to multiple sexual misconduct allegations. He served an eight-game suspension in 2020. Although Brown’s probation was terminated one year early for good behavior, he was also ordered to pay the above-referenced delivery driver $1.2MM.
Nothing Brown has done since the Bucs waived him — after he walked off the field at MetLife Stadium following a midgame dispute with then-Bucs HC Bruce Arians — suggests he will play in the NFL again. Reports linked him to numerous teams in 2020, and the Bucs re-signed him in 2021. Brown was not seriously linked to any teams this offseason.
The 12-year veteran said in March he wished to continue his career but indicated he wanted to sign with a team and then have surgery. Brown, who has issued phony retirements in the past, said two months later he did not plan to play this season. Even last season with Tampa Bay, the mercurial pass catcher showed he could still help a team. But the endless spree of baggage that defined the second half of his career has likely proven too much for teams at this point.
The Packers have had a more eventful offseason than nearly every other team in the league. One of the results of their moves is a decided lack of proven commodities at the receiver position, something which sparked quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ recent comments about the improvement which needs to be made amongst some of their new pass-catchers.
“The young guys, especially young receivers, we’ve got to be way more consistent,” the reigning MVP said, via PFF’s Doug Kyed. “A lot of drops, a lot of bad route decisions, running the wrong route. We’ve got to get better in that area.”
Per Kyed, Rodgers has stated they he wants Allen Lazardto operate as the “top option,” something which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his NFL resume. Rodgers’ preference would be for Lazard to be joined as a starter by veterans Sammy Watkinsand Randall Cobb – a trio which would include, by far, the most experience available. However, rookies Romeo Doubs(who has seen first-team reps) and Christian Watson (whom the Packers traded up to select in the second round) could unseat Watkins and/or Cobb, leaving the team with more upside – but less certainty – at an important position as they look to contend for a Super Bowl.
Here are some more WR notes from around the league:
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about the possibility of signing Antonio Brownyesterday. The former All-Pro hasn’t generated much interest since his colorful exit from the Buccaneers in the middle of a game last season, but would add experience to a banged-up Dallas receiver room. Instead, Jones replied “we want to give these young guys a real chance to make this team” (Twitter link via Jon Machota of The Athletic). A number of inexperienced wideouts are competing for depth spots behind the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, James Washingtonand Jalen Tolbert, and will be allowed to continue doing so for the remainder of the preseason.
Kyed tweets that one of the surprise omissions from the Patriots’ depth chart, according to some, could be Nelson Agholor. However, he notes that cutting him would not be financially viable (doing so would incur a dead cap charge of $10MM), and adds that teams which could be interested in trading for him are not willing to do so at his current salary of $9MM. More to the point, the team’s new offense could allow the 29-year-old to enjoy a bounceback season from the underwhelming 37-473-3 statline he produced last year.
Antonio Brown has teased retirement before, doing so at multiple points during his hiatus between Patriots and Buccaneers employment. But the former All-Pro’s latest comments move him closer to actually leaving the game.
Asked during a Fan Controlled Football League game if he expected to play in 2022, Brown responded (video link), “Nah, don’t play yourself looking at me to play.” This comes nearly two months after the 12-year veteran’s comment about needing an ankle surgery but wanting a team to sign him first before doing so.
“Obviously, we live the game, but you can’t play forever,” Brown said. “I think I’m a great player that’s done everything in the game.”
Based on Brown’s history, it is too early to deem this a retirement announcement. But the mercurial wide receiver’s age and recent actions make his latest state-of-the-union assessment a more accurate indicator than prior retirement threats. Brown will turn 34 in July and is obviously coming off the most visibly controversial sequence — his Bucs walk-off in New Jersey — to cap a long line of non-performance-related news cycles. No team has been connected to signing the talented pass catcher this offseason.
The past three-plus years have radically changed Brown’s reputation. Since the 1970 merger made earning All-Pro acclaim more difficult, Brown and Jerry Rice are the only wideouts to have strung together four straight All-Pro seasons. (Rice did so twice amid an unparalleled run of 10 All-Pro nods in 11 years; Brown notched his four from 2014-17). In his 2018 Steelers finale, Brown scored a career-high 15 touchdowns. Since, a slew of headlines driven by criminal charges and allegations, leading to the 2020 suspension, and clashes with various coaches and executives — culminating with his shoulder pad-removing scene after a spat with Bruce Arians — have defined Brown.
This stretch did include Brown helping the Bucs to their Super Bowl LV win, but just about everything else post-Pittsburgh has dented the All-Decade wideout’s reputation. While three teams took chances on the former superstar over the past three years, with others either working him out or had their quarterbacks lobby for him, the Bucs conclusion may well be the end of the line.
Free agent wideout Antonio Brownmade headlines once again this offseason with an unexpected message related to his playing career. Earlier this week, he tweeted his desire to retire as a member of the Steelers.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, however, that message wasn’t meant as a request to sign with Pittsburgh now or in the future. The 33-year-old has remained on the open market since his infamous departure from the Buccaneers. Among the reasons for the team cutting him was the status of his injured ankle, which remains an impediment to him being available for the 2022 campaign.
“I need to get my ankle fixed, but I just want to make sure I got an obligation or a commitment from a team”, Brown said in March. “It’s a lot for a guy to go do surgery without an idea of where you gonna work, or who you going to work for.”
As Florio notes, there has been “no talk about any team signing Brown” throughout the offseason, even with the initial waves of free agency and the draft having taken place. The four-time All-Pro produced during his time in Tampa Bay, leaving open the possibility that a receiver-needy team could take a flier on him, but the new-look Steelers offense already features a number of notable pass catchers.
Antonio Brownstill wishes to continue his NFL career, but an ankle injury stands in the way of his ability to do so. He is waiting on having the requisite surgery on said ankle, however, until receiving a commitment from a team willing to sign him, according to a TMZ report.
“I need to get my ankle fixed, but I just want to make sure I got an obligation or a commitment from a team”, Brown said. “It’s a lot for a guy to go do surgery without an idea of where you gonna work, or who you going to work for.”
The 33-year-old was cut by the Buccaneers in January after a heated exchange with then-head coach Bruce Arians. Among the causes for the falling-out was the status of Brown’s injured ankle, which he maintains wasn’t healthy enough for him to play in the game in which he quite literally walked away from the team. The four-time All-Pro wideout totalled 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games with Tampa Bay.
That level of production – while overshadowed by the latest of Brown’s off-field issues – could still earn him a noteworthy contract. One factor in the negotiating process between Brown and any interested teams could be the recent shifts in the WR market. Deals given to Tyreek Hilland Davante Adamsin particular have raised the compensation levels in general at the position – something Brown believes he should benefit from.
“I still feel like I can put up big numbers, and I see what these guys are getting paid. I just wonder why my value isn’t being upheld as the same.” He added, “my situation is never about anyone else. It’s just all about getting what I deserve because I know what I am and what I stand for, and you can’t play with me, the numbers are the numbers.”
While it remains to be seen how much interest teams may have in Brown, he is clearly hopeful to find a new home in the league. With most of the top names at the position off the market, he may soon be able to follow through on his statement made in the aftermath of his release: “Once my surgery is complete, I’ll be back to 100%… looking forward to next season.”
Going into the last year of his contract, Patriots punter Jake Bailey was set to earn a base salary of $925,000 for the 2022 NFL season. Due to a proven performance bonus that was triggered when Bailey was selected to the 2020 Pro Bowl, Bailey is on track to be the NFL’s highest-paid punter with a 2022 salary of $3.98MM, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.
A knee injury limited Bailey in the 2021 season which saw him struggle to live up to his expected salary. It’s now assumed that the Patriots will begin working towards a contract extension to lessen the cap hit Bailey is posed to hold. In a normal situation, the Patriots might want to see another season of success out of Bailey after a down 2021, but Bailey’s raise puts a little pressure on New England to work out a deal sooner rather than later.
Here are a few more notes from around the AFC, starting with a note from the Steel City:
In an article for The Athletic, Ed Bouchette poses the question: What does Pittsburgh do about their pass-catchers this offseason? The Steelers have long subscribed to the notion that they don’t need to sign a receiver to a multi-year extension (with the exception of Antonio Brown). They can (and do) always just draft another. Now, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud are headed towards free agency. They still have Diontae Johnson (heading into a contract year, himself) and Chase Claypool, but both have had their own issues: Johnson with drops and Claypool failing to improve on an impressive rookie-season. Pittsburgh can (and likely will) turn to the second and third round of the draft to address the thin roster, as usual, but do they break protocol to ensure they have at least three receivers they can trust?
After a one-year deal brought him to Houston, defensive tackle Maliek Collins has the Texans hooked. The 3-tech tackle played a pivotal role in now-head coach Lovie Smith‘s defense and the Texans are determined to pluck him off the open market and keep him in Houston. Luckily for Lovie, the feeling is reportedly mutual, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Collins is a strong fit in Houston and embraced his new team and his role on the team. Smith gushed about Collins and his impact, identifying him as the linchpin of their defensive system.
We mentioned a couple weeks ago that the Texans were able to re-sign long-time long snapper Jon Weeks on a one-year deal. Details on the contract were provided this week by Aaron Wilson on Twitter. Weeks will stay around the veteran minimum, slightly increasing his base salary from $1.08MM to $1.12MM and slightly increasing his signing bonus from $137,500 to $152,500. Consider it a cost-of-living raise for Weeks who will become the franchise’s longest-tenured player of all time when he reaches his 13th season this fall, passing star wide receiver Andre Johnson for the most seasons in Houston of all time.
Over the past week, Mike Sando of The Athletic and former player (and current FOX Sports Radio host) Rich Ohrnberger both reported that recently-retired (?) Buccaneers QB Tom Brady had grown frustrated with some of the team’s coaching. Ohrnberger specifically delineated issues that Brady had with HC Bruce Arians, and he added to that narrative with a series of tweets on Saturday night. Per Ohrnberger, not only did Arians take a figurative red pen to the game plans that Brady and OC Byron Leftwich would devise together, but Brady and Leftwich also had significant disagreements, particularly with respect to the run game.
Ohrnberger further noted that there is a feeling of resentment towards Arians in the building, because he has a “much lighter work schedule” than others players/coaches. In his own Twitter thread, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times adamantly refuted Ohrnberger’s reporting, saying that Arians — now 69 and with a history of health problems, including a recent Achilles injury — accepted his post on the condition that he would not be heavily involved in the game-planning, and that he did not take a red pen to anything. Stroud added that Arians’ work schedule was lighter by design, thereby implying that no one within the organization resents him for it. In fact, Stroud says he has not heard anything from any player or assistant to lend credence to Ohrnbeger’s report:
Now for more out of Tampa, beginning (of course) with additional Brady-related items:
Arians himself fired back at Ohrnberger’s original reports on the matter (via Stroud in a full-length piece), though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes this is a classic example of protesting too much. In Florio’s estimation, Ohrnberger — who played with Brady for three years in New England and who enjoys a close friendship with Buccaneers assistant coach A.Q. Shipley — has plenty of credibility here, and Florio is inclined to believe Ohrnberger’s take on the Brady/Arians rift.
And if Ohrnberger is, in fact, accurate, then that would obviously add more ballast to the rumors that Brady actually wants to play in 2022 and that he is simply trying to finagle his way out of Tampa. Indeed, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, longtime Brady teammates Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman believe Brady will be back, though Volin suggests it will be with a different team despite what he classifies as a “great relationship” between Brady and the Bucs. Volin adds that Brady may also want to buy into an NFL ownership group, and he names the Raiders and Dolphins as possibilities in that regard.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans is on the team’s side when it comes to the divorce between Tampa Bay and fellow wideout Antonio Brown. In a recent interview with Matt Harmon of Yahoo! Sports, Evans detailed the moments leading up to Brown’s famous midgame exit in the Bucs’ Week 16 matchup with the Jets, and he indicated Brown’s departure was spurred by his lack of targets. “You know, he was saying he wanted the rock, and I mean, rightfully so,” Evans said. “But like, yo, come in the game, AB. … They’re calling for us, because me and him are both on the pitch count, because we’re both coming back from injury. And so I’m trying to get him to come in the game. And he doesn’t come. So I go back on the drive. I do my two plays. I come out. And then I see [Arians] still trying to get him to come in the game. And they had like a falling out somehow. And AB goes off. … So I’m telling him, please don’t go out like this. And they’re calling me to come back in the game. So I just left him alone like, all right.”
Now for one from the non-drama department. Per Greg Auman of The Athletic, the Bucs are promoting Tim Atkins from quality control coach to defensive and special teams assistant (Twitter link). Atkins was on DC Todd Bowles‘ staff with the Jets and has spent the last three seasons on the Bucs’ staff.
Thursday’s transaction report revealed, after days of uncertainty, the Buccaneers waived Antonio Brown. As the back-and-forth between the parties persists, Brown is no longer a member of the team.
Brown has announced he will undergo ankle surgery, which would certainly make the prospect of a team claiming the mercurial star highly unlikely. A Brown claim would be known by Friday afternoon. Brown was not waived with an injury designation, Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets.
This marks the fourth time in the past two-plus years a team has parted ways with Brown. The Steelers traded him to the Raiders in March 2019, and the Raiders released him after a turbulent training camp. The Patriots released Brown in September 2019, after deploying him in one game. Because the trade deadline has long since passed, Brown is subject to the waiver wire. But he is likely headed back to free agency.
Brown’s latest exit stems from his midgame walkout against the Jets. Although Bruce Arians said immediately after the game Brown was done in Tampa, the Bucs spent days weighing their options on separating from the 12th-year veteran. Part of the delay appeared to center around the prospect of yet another team giving Brown an opportunity. After a Brown’s statement that accused the Bucs of forcing him to play through injury surfaced Wednesday night, the defending champions cut their losses.
Arians countered AB’s assertions Thursday, indicating Brown’s refusal to re-enter Sunday’s Jets matchup took place because he was frustrated about targets.
“He was very upset at halftime about who was getting targeted,” Arians said, via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “Got that calmed down; players took care of that. It started again on the sideline. We called for the personnel group that he had played in the entire game. He refused to go in the game. That’s when I looked back and saw him basically wave off the coach. I then went back, approached him about what was going on. ‘I ain’t playing.’ What’s going on? ‘I ain’t getting the ball.’ That’s when I said, ‘You’re done. Get the eff out of here.'”
The optics of Brown jogging and dancing as he left the field at MetLife Stadium are not great for his stance that injury was behind the dismissal, but he did not practice after aggravating his ankle malady on Dec. 29. Brown nevertheless suited up and caught three of the five passes thrown his way for 26 yards.
The Bucs gave Brown an incentive package that would have guaranteed him $334K by reaching 50 catches. That was merely Brown’s lowest-tier incentive, but it became relevant after he missed nine games because of contracting COVID-19, being suspended due to his faked vaccine card, and the ankle injury. Brown collected a $2MM signing bonus and $1.1MM in base salary this season, but issues staying on the field cost him incentive dollars.
Interestingly, Bucs GM Jason Licht added that Brown asked last week, despite coming off a three-game suspension, for his $2MM in remaining incentives to be guaranteed. The Bucs, understandably, declined. Licht also said Brown did not communicate his ankle was bothering him pregame or during the game (Twitterlinks via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). Regardless of how we got here, this marks yet another messy exit for Brown, who was on a first-ballot Hall of Fame path before his Steelers divorce.
Brown’s intention to undergo surgery stands to end his season. This release comes barely a week after Arians praised AB for growing while in Tampa. Arians had said Brown being cut because of the fake vaccination card was in play but agreed to take him back after his suspension ended. While the Bucs are the latest team to regret taking the gamble on Brown’s talent — a move Arians initially resisted before Tom Brady‘s preference won out — the former All-Pro played well, for the most part, when available this season. Based on recent history, it would not shock if Brown resurfaced elsewhere in 2022. But his age (34 this summer) and obvious baggage will work against him.
The Antonio Brown saga continues. On Thursday morning, AB tweeted a screenshot of an exchange with trainer Alex Guerrero, accusing Tom Brady‘s business partner of pocketing unearned cash (Twitter link via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com). Unfortunately, AB did more than just air dirty laundry — he also appears to have shared his own private bank account information.
Brown’s latest social media snafu may negate any sympathy earned by the statement he issued last night. Through his attorney, Brown explained that he has a bone fragment and ligament damage in his ankle, plus an MRI to prove it. He also alleged that head coach Bruce Arians ordered him to play to play, despite knowing that he was hurt. Brown says that when he refused, Arians responded by saying “you’re done” and gesturing with a finger across his throat.
The wide receiver also posted a text exchange with Arians (Twitter link) detailing his ankle malady. Arians, for his part, has said that he didn’t know that Brown was injured. At least, he didn’t know that Brown was too injured to play in that moment. That’s where the two stories truly diverge — Arians already knew about the problematic ankle that sidelined Brown earlier in the year, but he seems to be saying that Sunday’s sideline blowup was about something else.
As of this moment, Brown technically remains on the Buccaneers’ roster. But, as Arians told reporters over the weekend, he is “no longer a Buc.” It had been speculated that the Buccaneers were holding on to Brown in order to keep him away from other teams, but he won’t be hooking on with anyone for the 2021-22 playoffs.
“Once my surgery is complete,” said Brown in the statement. “I’ll be back to 100%… looking forward to next season.”