Antonio Brown is a Super Bowl champion, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s All-2010s Team. He’s also 32 and, pending whether the Buccaneers extend his contract before March 17, is about to enter free agency.
Brown is no stranger to free agency. After being released by the Raiders following a trade from the Steelers in 2019, he was immediately picked up by the Patriots, who released him after one game. Brown’s off-field issues kept him out of the NFL until the Buccaneers signed him six weeks into the 2020 season. Signed as an insurance policy, Brown was more than that for the Buccaneers. In eight regular season games, Brown caught 45 of 62 targets for 483 yards and four touchdowns. In the playoffs, Brown caught a touchdown pass in Tampa Bay’s wild-card win over Washington. After a knee injury kept him sidelined for the Buccaneers’ NFC title game win over the Packers, Brown caught Tom Brady’s third and final touchdown pass in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
He may not be the All-Pro he once was, but Brown’s 2020 season showed that he is still a highly productive player. Brown is an ideal No. 3 receiver at this stage of his career. And after a tumultuous 18 month period, Brown was hailed for his leadership and professionalism during his time in Tampa. And when looking at some of the other receivers set to enter the market (including Brown’s current teammate Chris Godwin and former teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster), Brown can probably be had at a very affordable price.
With the start of free agency just around the corner, let’s take a look at Brown’s most likely landing spots. We’ll also offer a scouting report while providing news and notes regarding the wide receiver’s future.
Top landing spots
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: With Godwin’s future up in the air, it makes perfect since for the Buccaneers to sign Brown, who fits like a glove inside the Buccaneers’ offense. If Godwin leaves, that would leave Brown, No. 1 receiver Mike Evans, and up-and-comers Scott Miller and Tyler Johnson. The Buccaneers would still have to find someone to fill Godwin’s void, but this receiving corps is a pretty good starting block. Brown is happy in Tampa, and if Tom Brady vouches for him again, Brown will likely be part of the Buccaneers’ 2021 title defense.
- Los Angeles Rams: Brown would be an ideal replacement for Josh Reynolds, who is also set to become a free agent. In Los Angeles, Brown would be part of one of the NFL’s best receiving trios that would also include Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. That trio would certainly help Matthew Stafford as he prepares for his first season in Los Angeles. Brown would be joining another Super Bowl caliber team in Los Angeles that is just two years removed from its own Super Bowl run.
- Baltimore Ravens: In Baltimore, Brown would share a huddle with his younger cousin, Marquise Brown. He would be asked to help improve a Ravens offense that finished 32nd in the NFL in passing in 2020. Brown’s arrival would likely be welcomed by Lamar Jackson, who could use a professional, veteran receiver as he enters his fourth NFL season. Brown wouldn’t fix all of the Ravens’ passing needs, but it would certainly be a good start.
- Seattle Seahawks: This depends on whether or not Russell Wilson stays in Seattle. But if Wilson remains with the Seahawks, the addition of Brown makes a lot of sense. Similar to the Rams, the Seahawks’ No. 3 receiver, David Moore, is set to enter free agency. If Moore leaves, Brown could fill his spot while playing alongside D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. It wouldn’t fix the Seahawks’ offensive line issues, but Brown would give Wilson one of the top receiving trios in the NFL.
- Tennessee Titans: Tennessee needs help at receiver, especially with Corey Davis set to enter free agency. In Brown, the Titans would be getting a nice complement for Pro Bowler A.J. Brown. Brown would be joining a run-heavy team that has Super Bowl aspirations. His new quarterback would be Ryan Tannehill, who threw 55 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions during his first two seasons in Nashville.
Pros: Brown made the most of his limited role within Tampa Bay’s offense. He caught 73.3% of his targets, the second-highest total among Buccaneers’ receivers. In his four regular season starts, Brown caught 28 of 41 targets for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He caught six touchdowns in his final six games of the 2020 season. Brown may not be the dominant force he once was, but — based on last year’s numbers — he is still a highly-effective player who can help turn a good offense into a great one.
Cons: Brown will be 33 by the time the 2021 season kicks off. He suffered a knee injury during the 2020 playoffs that left him questionable for Super Bowl LV. Given the fact that his game relies largely on his quickness and athleticism, his age and recent injury history are cause for concern. Brown embraced his role in Tampa, but it’s unknown if he can do the same in another city.
News and notes
February 7: On the podium shortly after his team’s Super Bowl victory, Brown confirmed his desire to remain with the Buccaneers for the 2021 season. «I would love to be back here next year,» Brown said. «It would mean everything to be back. I’m just excited and super grateful.»
February 19: Larry Foote, a former teammate of Brown’s in Pittsburgh who is currently Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach, lauded Brown’s impact on the Buccaneers after joining the team in October. «AB is just like Tom Brady as far as when he hits that grass, he’s all business, and all of a sudden you see about 10 guys over there warming up with him because he’d do a dynamic stretch,» Foote said during an appearance on the All Things Covered podcast with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden. «He got the bands on, he’s running 100s — and he’s serious. All of a sudden, you see two guys over there with him, three guys, then before you know it there’s a couple of defensive players over there. Them young guys see what it takes and how he worked, and every day when he was out there he was working.
«Everybody had their little reservations about him, but he was the perfect model citizen.»