Early Saturday morning, Antonio Brown demanded his release from the Oakland Raiders in what turned out to be the final act of his tumultuous ride with the team. He was granted his release by the Raiders, and later that afternoon, reports began to surface that Brown had reached an agreement with the New England Patriots.
With those reports came a social media outburst and an interesting debate; was getting cut by the Raiders so that he could sign with the Patriots Antonio Brown’s plan all along? Was Brown’s apology earlier this week just one last attempt to keep some of his guaranteed money before getting himself cut? There are a few reasons that this wild theory could actually be feasible.
1. Antonio Brown did just about everything he could to get cut
There are a couple of variations on this conspiracy theory floating around; one being that it was never Antonio Brown’s intention to play for the Raiders, and the other being that he perhaps decided he wanted out after he didn’t like what he saw at training camp. Whether or not Brown actually preemptively planned his escape from Oakland or not we can, he sure acted like someone who did. Let’s go down the list.
1. Showed up to camp with a self-inflicted injury on both of his feet due to improper usage of a cryotherapy machine.
2. Didn’t figure out his helmet issue during the offseason when he had ample time to do so, instead dragging it on into camp.
3. Left training camp without being excused, reportedly going radio silent on the team.
4. Revealed he had left because he wasn’t being allowed to play with his old helmet, going so far as to threaten to retire over the issue.
5. Upon having his helmet grievance turned down and returning to camp, he left camp again to file a second grievance on the same issue.
6. When he was fined for these multiple unexcused absences, he posted about the fine on Instagram, publicly criticizing the Raiders and their front office.
7. When that didn’t get him in trouble, Brown escalated the situation at practice himself, lashing out against Raiders GM Mike Mayock with threats of physical violence and racial slurs.
8. After apologizing to try to prevent his $29.125 million in guarantees from getting revoked, he immediately did a full 180 and started publicly bashing the Raiders when he found out that those guarantees were no longer going to be honored.
9. Brown stated that he would not play under the conditions and demanded his release
These certainly don’t seem like the actions of a person too interested in keeping their job.
2. Brown reacted with extreme joy to being cut
Shortly after news of his official release became public, Antonio Brown posted a video to YouTube showing him reacting to the news. He screams, “I’m free!” And then he proceeds to run around his backyard like a maniac for 30 seconds as if this was the greatest news that he had ever received.
When he came back inside, Brown called his grandmother. “Grandma, they freed me,” he exclaimed with laughter, “they freed me Grandma!” Brown’s grandmother responded that she had “told him it was going to work out.”
Now obviously by this point, the relationship with the Raiders was frayed, so there is some reason for a sense of relief to get this news. But overwhelming joy seems like an odd emotion.
3. Brown signed with the Patriots immediately
The fact that a deal got done quickly doesn’t necessarily mean that the Patriots had anything to do with this “plan”. As soon as one of the best wide receivers in the world became available in free agency, he was going to receive a handful of offers. New England made sense as a fit as Bill Belichick has had success in dealing with volatile players before, and the Patriots needed a big-time weapon after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement this offseason.
But the speed of the deal does make you wonder if Brown didn’t have something like this in mind all along. He has been chummy with Tom Brady on Instagram in the past, and he was probably disappointed that the Steelers wouldn’t trade him to the Patriots. Getting himself kicked out of Oakland was the only way to make this all come together.
So was this all part of a master plan?
Probably not. It’s obviously possible. But it seems more likely that Antonio Brown is just a really strange cat. At best, he’s an eccentric individual; at worst, he may be dealing with some mental health issues. Whatever the case may be, he doesn’t come off as someone who is cold and calculated and thinking 10 steps ahead. There were probably smarter ways to get out of Oakland without doing so much damage to his personal brand (and his bank account).
It’s far more likely that this was just a series of happy accidents, that his temper tantrums and refusal to take any responsibility for his actions just ended up working out for him. In the end, the New England Patriots and Antonio Brown come out of this scenario as big winners while the Oakland Raiders are left down assets, down their best offensive weapon, and down in nation-wide respect.