Ever since training camp started, Antonio Brown has been at the forefront of NFL media attention. First, due to his frostbitten feet which caused him to miss several practices. Then, due to his helmet controversy with the league. Then, because of a screaming match and near fist fight with Oakland Raiders GM Mike Mayock over fines. And most recently, because of a video he posted on YouTube which contained a private conversation with his coach Jon Gruden.
All of this ultimately led to the Raiders releasing Brown Saturday morning and voiding his nearly $30 million in guaranteed money. However, about eight hours later, the football world was turned upside down when reports came out that the New England Patriots had signed Brown.
My reaction to the news was shock and confusion. On one hand, Brown, arguably the best wide receiver of this generation, was coming to my hometown team. On the other hand, look what this guy just pulled in Oakland. I’m not sure I want that guy anywhere near my team.
This signing brings to mind the other two times that the Patriots acquired a diva of a wide receiver: Randy Moss in 2007 and Chad Johnson (aka Ochocinco) in 2011. They represent opposite ends of the spectrum of how Brown’s career in New England can go. He can either set records and help lead the team to a historic season like Moss, or he can make 15 catches the whole season and be a non-factor like Johnson.
Now, it is true that neither Moss nor Johnson left their previous team with as much controversy as Brown, but it is also true that neither of them were coming off such an incredible season like Brown is. He led the league in touchdown receptions last year with 15 and notched his sixth consecutive season of 1,200 receiving yards.
I don’t like Brown as a person at all. I don’t like what he pulled in his last season in Pittsburgh, I don’t like how he handled himself in Oakland, and I really don’t like how he has thrown teammates and coaches under the bus in the past.
Yet, it is really hard not to get excited about Antonio Brown the player. It’s very likely that, when all is said and done, he will be considered one of the top 10 greatest receivers in NFL history, and he still seems to be in his prime. Also, he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He is a definite deep threat, but he can also catch balls in the middle of the field and make plays with his feet.
Here is the kicker, though. For the first time in his career, Brown is going to be on a team where he is expendable. The Patriots do not need him by any means. They demolished the Steelers 33-3 in their season opener without him. He is joining a receiving corps that already has Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and Demaryius Thomas.
Hopefully by realizing that, Brown will fix his attitude and put the team first. Brown will not be able to just do what he wants and get away with it in New England. This team is already a Super Bowl contender without him. With him, it could be an all-time great team.
And if he ends up being a nuisance? The only thing the Patriots would lose is money. A one-year deal worth up to $15 million with only $10 million guaranteed is a worthwhile investment for a guy who can take your team to the next level.
We can say what we want about his character, but Brown is a really special player. Clearly the Patriots thought his talent was worth taking a chance on, and it’s hard to argue with that.
Between Moss and Johnson, I hope Brown’s production is much closer to Moss on the “Patriots Diva Receiver” scale. It’s unfair to expect him to be Randy Moss, but one thing’s for sure: Watching Tom Brady throw downfield passes to Antonio Brown will bring back some good memories.
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.