After months of speculation, Antonio Brown finally found his next NFL team. By taking his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of the most dominant receivers in NFL history will get a second chance to catch passes from the greatest quarterback of all time. At least, as long as he stays out of trouble.
While Brown’s ability to produce on the field has never been an issue, his personal and legal drama makes him a risky signing. With the former Pittsburgh Steelers star still dealing with sexual assault allegations, his new head coach, Bruce Arians, just sent a clear message about AB’s future.
Antonio Brown is reuniting with Tom Brady
For a brief moment, Patriots fans got a chance to watch Tom Brady throw to an elite wide receiver again. Of course, it had been years since the six-time Super Bowl champion had a weapon of Antonio Brown’s caliber.
In their first (and only) game together, the two showed excellent chemistry. Brown caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in a 43-0 win against the Miami Dolphins. However, New England cut him five days later after sexual assault allegations surfaced.
Brown became embroiled in several personal and legal battles over the course of the past year, which eventually led the NFL to suspend him for eight games. Still, based on his track record of elite production, he remained an intriguing potential free-agent addition for several NFL teams.
Recently, the Seattle Seahawks entered the mix as a possible fit for the seven-time Pro Bowler. However, the Buccaneers ended up winning the sweepstakes for Brown’s services. Though he won’t make a ton of money in Tampa, the electrifying wideout has a chance to win his first Super Bowl ring.
Bruce Arians sends a clear message about Brown’s future
On paper, the addition of Antonio Brown makes the Buccaneers the team to beat in the NFC. However, considering how tumultuous the last 12-plus months have been for the 32-year-old, there’s no guarantee that he will avoid more drama that could jeopardize his NFL career.
With Brown still dealing with the legal ramifications of the sexual assault allegations made against him, that could affect his availability at some point. And while Bruce Arians did say he believes Brown has matured, he also sent a clear message about his future.
“Let the court system do its job,” Arians said during his post-game media availability. “I’ve been around a lot of players that had allegations that weren’t true—some were. So let the court system handle it, and if it’s found out to be true, he won’t be with us.”
AB makes the Buccaneers the favorites to win Super Bowl 55
In terms of potential upside, the thought of the Buccaneers rolling out an offense that includes Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski should terrify defensive coordinators. Plus, Bruce Arians also has two solid running backs at his disposal in Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones.
Ultimately, if Brown can stay focused on football, Tampa has all the pieces in place to win its first Super Bowl title in nearly 20 years.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers scored 45 points despite Evans totaling just two catches for 37 yards. Godwin and Gronkowski combined for 14 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Scotty Miller racked up 6/109/1 in the blowout victory.
With AB in the mix, Tampa will be even more difficult to defend moving forward. Conceivably, the Buccaneers could employ plenty of empty sets featuring their top-four wideouts plus Gronkowski or a running back. Most defenses don’t have enough corners to cover Evans and Godwin, let alone a Hall of Fame-caliber player who won’t be asked to carry the load.
Of course, everything could change if Brown can’t avoid the off-field drama that derailed his time in New England. Can he make the best of his second chance to work with Brady? Or will Buccaneers fans have their hearts broken by a player who has proven to be highly unreliable?
It’s on you, AB.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.