After a drama-filled 2018 season in which he threw temper tantrums on the sideline, butted head with his offensive coordinator for the way in which he was being used in the team's high powered offense, skipped practice and saw his relationship with his quarterback implode, All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown got his wish granted.
The man player who is considered among if not the best at his position was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders for just a third and fifth-round draft pick. Upon the finalization of the trade, he became the highest paid receiver in the league when he signed a new deal with the Raiders for three years and $50.125 million with a max value of $54.125 million and $30.125 million guaranteed.
The drama that he stirred in Pittsburgh didn’t end with the regular season in which the team finished with their worst record since the 2013 season at 9-6-1 and saw them miss out on the postseason for the first time in five years.
He let it bleed well into the offseason where he aired the team’s dirty laundry in exclusive interviews and voiced his grievances as well as his desire to be traded away from the franchise publicly as he basically lived on social media since the regular season ended.
Brown was deactivated prior to the team’s pivotal matchup in the final week of the regular season in which they were playing a must-win game to get into the playoffs with the divisional rival Cincinnati Bengals. They would also need some help from the Browns in their week 17 matchup with the Ravens to secure the division title.
They would manage to squeak by with a victory over a Jeff Driskel led Bengals team without the services of their all-star talent, but Cleveland couldn’t deliver the help that they needed. After it was initially reported that Brown was not activated because he was dealing with a leg injury, it was later divulged that he wasn’t allowed to suit up because he had left the team’s facility after a heated exchange with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and didn’t return to practice, respond or reach out to anyone in the organization until he showed up on game day.
So how does a player that breaks team rules, leaves practice without authorization or reasonable merit and held what seemed like a weekly tell all of reasons for him being so disgruntled as well as making what came off as daily declarations of what his future would hold beyond the Steel City despite having no actual control over his contract status after he signed on the dotted line, end up getting his way in the end?
That’s because the Steelers finally decided that Brown was ultimately not worth the headache he was causing the coaching staff as well as the front office and they realized that the old cliché “all publicity is good publicity”, doesn’t always apply especially if an asset threatens to hurt the organization’s bottom line which is winning games and contending for championships.
The fact that they practically gave away one of the best pass catchers in the game that at age 30, is still considered to be in his prime for a pair of mid-round picks while still incurring over $20 million in dead money should speak volumes to the demonstrative force that Brown was in his last year with the team. It should also reflect the president that teams have even when it comes to their star players, and that is no one interferes with the bottom line of the franchise.
Brown and players of his All-Pro caliber will be able to get away with a lot of on and off-field antics that can be toxic to a locker room like it was in Pittsburgh as long as they can perform at that level. However, the moment that it becomes noticeable that they have lost a step or two and that father time are beginning to nip at their heels, fewer and fewer teams will be willing to take on the potential drama that might come about bringing in such a player.
These kinds of behavioral and character flaws might impact Brown’s legacy when his career its all said and done. He will almost assuredly finish his career among the all-time greats when it comes to every statistical category for receivers and while his place in the annals of history won’t be able to be refuted, he could have to wait a year or two to hear his name called when it comes time to get voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He might end up being subjected to the same kind of treatment that 2018 Hall of Fame inductee and all-time great receiver Terrell Owens had to endure before finally being voted in. Even though Owens ranks third all-time in both receiving yards and touchdowns, he wasn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer because many of the voters held his controversial behavioral traits that afflicted many of the teams that he was a part of against him in his first year of eligibility.
Brown could very well be headed down that same path despite being renown as one of the hardest workers in the league and one of the greatest receivers of his generation like Owens was during his time. He still has time and a new opportunity in Oakland to change the negative narrative that could one day be associated with his legacy.