By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots needed a few Oakland-based meltdowns and even fewer hours to successfully swoop in on Antonio Brown.
Now with the Patriots on a one-year deal worth up to $15 million, Bill Belichick and the Patriots will take a massive gamble on a seven-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL in touchdowns last year, with 15 in as many games for the Steelers.
It's not the only reason to buy in on Brown, a four-time First Team All-Pro wideout, of course. The 31-year-old has been downright phenomenal throughout his NFL career (all with the Steelers to date), with six straight seasons of 100 catches, 1,200 receiving yards, and four double-digit touchdown campaigns.
But, again, it's not a move without high risk and high reward for the Patriots.
Here are some extra thoughts on Brown's decision to join the Patriots on a one-year deal...
It's fair to wonder if Brown planned this all along
I think we all know by now that Brown was unhappy in Oakland. I mean, there's no doubt that he was thrilled to get out of his situation with Pittsburgh (pretty sure he would have fought his teammates in the huddle if he stuck around for another snap), but he probably took one look at the operation and realized what a horrendous mistake he had made.
Going from Big Ben to Derek Carr was a significant step backwards, and we still don't know if Jon Gruden still has the juice or smarts to build a winner in 2019. There was also the fact that the Raiders were not expected to do much of anything this season, especially in an AFC West featuring the Chiefs, Chargers, and even the always-in-it Broncos.
So what did Brown do? Well, pretty much everything to get himself out of town. The feet ailment was certainly real, but the helmet drama seemed somewhat forced (if Tom Brady can switch helmets without a meltdown, anybody can), his threats to retire seemed like a cry for help, and his constant fighting with Raider officials revealed his true feelings. He was a bodysuit episode away from matching George Costanza's attempts to get fired by the Yankees.
Then there was Brown's reaction to getting released by the Raiders. This man was straight-up thrilled. He even called his grandma and told her he was "freed," to which she said that she knew everything would work out. Read into that and you're talking about a player who essentially told those around him that he didn't want to be in Oakland.
And given the money Brown was owed (before the Raiders found a way to void the $29 million and change Brown was guaranteed), an outright release was undoubtedly the only way that was going to happen.
Now, did Brown know that the Patriots would come calling? Maybe, maybe not. We're probably never going to know, because that my friends would be a violation and everybody would get themselves in some serious hot water. But it's clear that the general public believes that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, set this one up. But the Patriots' history, as well as their interest in Brown in the past, probably gave him an inkling as to what could await him on the open market.
Brown's respect for Tom Brady, his wants should give you hope for peaceful tenure
You're going to hear a lot about Brown and his lack of respect for his employer from those who are not fans of this signing. But you'd also be crazy to dismiss the following facts: Derek Carr is not Tom Brady. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are not Bill Belichick. And Mark Davis is not Robert Kraft. The 31-year-old Brown is essentially walking into one of the most universally respected situations in all of football, and he seems to be aware of this opportunity.
It was just a year ago that Brown publicly posted an Instagram conversation between Brady and himself, with Brown acknowledging Brady as the greatest of all time and saying what an honor it was to watch a fellow sixth-round guy.
When it comes to Belichick, there's a few things working in favor of those who believe that this relationship will work; There's been a softening of Belichick as a head coach in terms of what he views as acceptable behavior from his talents; Belichick respects the crap out of talented players, even if they have personality issues; And he's made players with those "character flaws" feel valued and important. Just ask Randy Moss (before things soured at the end of No. 81's tenure), Martellus and Michael Bennett, and countless other "troubled" players who have made their way through town. That last part is especially important to Brown, who has vocalized his desire to be treated as more than a football player.
We'd be silly to ignore all the crap that's happened since then, of course, but the respect Brown seems to have for the figureheads in New England is something that should give you hope that he's going to be a good soldier.
Oh, that and he's only in New England for one year, meaning that he's playing for a payday in 2020 and that the Patriots are not tied to him for anything beyond this year, meaning he'll be on the first plane out of town if he pulls any nonsense Belichick and Co. view as detrimental to the team's ultimate goal of winning another Super Bowl.
The Patriots have found quite the replacement for Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement and somehow replaced him with Antonio Brown for a grand total of up to $15 million. No draft picks, no trades. The Raiders took that bullet for the Patriots. Just cash.
"Because of course they did," the rest of league thinks to themselves.
Brown and Gronkowski are not the same, of course. You're talking about a 5-foot-10 wideout and a 6-foot-6 tight end. But you are talking about a player who is downright dominant at his position -- you could argue that Brown is still in his prime while Gronk's prime passed him by a few years ago due to injuries -- and has made the Patriots an absolute nightmare to play against yet again. Brown's addition gives the Patriots a three-wideout set featuring Brown, Josh Gordon, and Julian Edelman in the slot. Throw James White or Sony Michel in the mix, and assuming Ben Watson can give you something, this is an ultimate pick-your-poison for opposing defenses. Just imagine this team in play-action.
Pure nightmare fuel.
Now feel free to let your mind go absolutely mental, even if it's just for a few minutes, thinking about Gronkowski deciding to come out of retirement and rejoin the Patriots later this fall in search of yet another Super Bowl ring.
Damn the NFL for robbing us of some tremendous theater
Because of the day he was released, the Patriots will not have Brown at their disposal for Sunday's banner-raising primetime game against... the Steelers. Oh man, what a missed opportunity. This would assume that Brown would dress after having zero practices with the Patriots (unlikely, you'd imagine), but still, the thought of Brown arriving to Gillette Stadium on his hot air balloon and right in front of Mike Tomlin seems kind of amazing.
With Brown in the picture, who gets cut from New England's roster?
The Patriots aren't going to have to worry about this one until after their Week 1 head-to-head with the Steelers, but barring an injury and trip to the injured reserve, Brown's upcoming addition to the Patriots roster means that somebody's getting cut from the 53-man roster. You'd almost have to assume it'll come from the receiver position, too, and one of Jakobi Meyers or Gunner Olszewski will be the odd man out. For what it's worth, Meyers didn't look to be on the same page as Brady in their lone preseason action together (he'll get another chance on Sunday Night Football), and Olszewski is a special teamer who might not even return punts if Edelman has his say.