Antonio Brown has signed with the New England Patriots, as first reported by Master Tes of Bleacher Report. Hours after being released by the Oakland Raiders before ever playing a single snap for the team, Brown agreed to terms with New England to join his former-Steelers team's chief rival one day before the two teams square off in the season opener for the respective clubs.
Brown's deal is reportedly for 1-year and $15 million with a $9 million dollar signing bonus. According to NFL rules, Brown is ineligible to play in Sunday night's season opener because he wasn't on the roster before 4pm EST deadline on the day before the game. The former Steelers and Raiders receiver will be eligible to suit up for his Patriots debut in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins.
Brown has had a myriad of issues this offseason including getting frostbite on his feet after not wearing proper protective footwear in a cryogenic chamber, threatening to retire over his style of helmet being outlawed and getting into a verbal altercation with Raiders GM Mike Mayock on the practice field. Nevertheless, Bill Belichick had no gripes about bringing Brown to New England. Belichick has had a long history of bringing in troubled wide receivers from Randy Moss to Chad Ochocinco to, most recently, Josh Gordon. Not all of those players have worked out the way the Patriots would have hoped, but there's reason for optimism in Brown's case.
Brown has recorded 6 consecutive 100-catch seasons and showed no signs of any sort of drop in play last year. Despite sharing the field with breakout star Juju Smith-Schuster, Brown recorded 105 catches, 1,297 yards and a career-high 15 touchdowns in just 15 games for Pittsburgh last season. Those who are concerned about Brown's reputation as a diva should consider the fact that Brown's only major issues have come when he's been on non-playoff teams (last year's Steelers and, presumably, this year's Oakland Raiders). When the Steelers were having regular season success similar to that of the Patriots, Brown wasn't an issue. In fact, Brown was perhaps the biggest reason for Pittsburgh's success.
Additionally, Brown has clearly had his eyes set on joining New England for some time. When Drew Rosenhaus, the agent of both Antonio Brown and former Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, told Brown that the Patriots were interested in trading for him this past March, the mention of New England clearly caught Brown's attention. Brown immediately cut off Rosenhaus mind-sentence and said with a gleeful tone in his voice, "Oh, the Patriots ready too, huh?" in regards to the reigning Super Bowl champions making a deal to acquire him.
Brown also shared this Instagram DM exchange with Tom Brady about a year ago...
It’s hard to ignore Brown’s long list of issues, but it’s equally difficult to disregard Bill Belichick’s confidence in signing Brown. If you’re Bill Belichick and you know your team has a chance at a championship with or without Antonio Brown, why take the risk of bringing him in and committing to him financially the way they did in the first place if you have any concerns about Brown’s toxic reputation? Maybe Belichick knows something we don’t. Maybe agent Drew Rosenhaus, who is said to have a close relationship with the Patriots head coach, told Belichick that Brown was shooting his way out of Oakland on purpose to play for a better organization. An organization like the Patriots.
Brown joins a receiving corps that features Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas, all of whom were once regarded among the best receivers in the NFL. If things go right for New England this year, it’s hard to imagine how any team will be able to cover all of the Patriots talented wideouts.
Photo: (Jeff Chiu - AP Photo)