By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Did Bill Belichick and the Patriots seriously just do this to the National Football League? Again?
The moment the Raiders released wide receiver Antonio Brown, the Patriots shot right to the top of his list of destinations. It happens every time a player of his caliber hits the open market in such a fashion. New England is one of the only organizations in football with the structure and cache to handle such a personality.
Even still, Brown has taken "mercurial" to new levels in 2019. Chaos doesn't even begin to describe his time with the Raiders, a misadventure worthy of its own detailed timeline. Still, Bill Belichick decided to take the plunge with Brown, agreeing to terms within hours of his release and setting football Twitter aflame like we've rarely seen.
The idea is that a superstar with this kind of baggage would arrive in Foxboro with the shortest of leashes.
That's probably not the case.
According to Adam Schefter, Brown's one-year deal with the Patriots includes a $9 million signing bonus and he can make up to $15 million. It's a different situation than when the Pats acquired Randy Moss for a fourth-round pick and paid him just $3 million in 2007.
So as a Belichick signing, Brown is more comparable to Darrelle Revis, the league's ultimate mercenary. Revis signed for $12 million in 2014 and would have stuck around even if he were a shell of himself, but he delivered a First Team All-Pro campaign anyway.
Of course, Revis also helped capture the Patriots' fourth Super Bowl championship. Belichick's first great reclamation project, running back Corey Dillon, helped them nab No. 3 in 2004. Moss came damn close. So did Chad Ochocinco, but as total dead weight. Albert Haynesworth lasted half a season.
You can see the range of outcomes, here.
Brown will likely be here for all of 2019, though. And he is certainly still capable of reaching the greatest of heights, especially working in the Patriots offense. He'll make Tom Brady pretty happy. He'll get open early in his routes, catch the ball over the middle, make plays after the catch, get to the end zone. That is, assuming he accepts that he won't get the ball every time. Assuming his erratic behavior with the Raiders is not indicative of an issue that goes beyond his football situation.
Belichick and the Patriots are hoping now that Brown had legitimate reason to grow exasperated with the operation in Oakland. He is going from Derek Carr to Brady, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock - two men who were TV personalities two winters ago - to Belichick. From one of the league's most dysfunctional organizations of the past 15 years to the model franchise in sports for two decades. The Raiders' fundamental disarray got lost in the whirlwind of Brown's often-outlandish behavior.
The hoodie is gambling that his operation, like it has with so many other enigmatic supernovas, gives Brown the vessel he needs to continue to flourish. Brown remains a top receiver in the league when healthy and engaged, maybe the best. His fit in the Patriots offense and potential for elite production is unquestioned.
It's up to Brown to answer those other questions. But this is Belichick's roll of the dice.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].