Amid a chaotic 2020, will any NFL team take the risk on Antonio Brown?

Andrew Luck’s retirement, which was roughly a year ago, feels like five years ago. So does Antonio Brown’s meltdown in Oakland, which happened around the same time Luck retired.

Speaking of Brown, the rapidification of the news cycle is something that could benefit the Hall-of-Fame bound receiver, whose ability to make plays on the football field has been eclipsed only by his ability to be a spectacle off of it.

Over the past year, Brown’s laundry list of transgressions — both known and alleged — is long. It includes a brief stint in New England that ended amid rape and sexual misconduct accusations, an incident with a delivery driver that led to charges of battery and burglary in January, and multiple retirements he quickly rescinded.

Antonio Brown's stint with the Patriots lasted for one game in 2019. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Antonio Brown's stint with the Patriots lasted for one game in 2019. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Yet, all that seemed to fade into the background Friday, when the NFL informed Brown that he has to serve an eight-game suspension for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy. In the aftermath of the ruling, the conversation quickly shifted to which teams should take a shot on him.

Let’s be clear here: that any team would be interested in Brown, despite his behavior the past 12 months, is a testament to his prodigious talent and teams’ never-ending commitment to doing whatever it takes to win games.

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It’s due to that mentality that the suspension could be regarded as a “victory” for Brown, who now finds himself closer to being out of NFL purgatory since teams interested in signing him, of which there are some, now have a timeline of availability for him.

To any franchise interested in doing so, this scenario comes with a pair of unpredictable caveats, the first being whether Brown can function within a team without coming apart at the seams. During what promises to be one of the most unusual seasons in NFL history, some teams will surely be reluctant to take a shot on an additional wild card like Brown since the COVID-19 pandemic is a big enough wild card by itself.

The second caveat that will factor into Brown’s future is whether anything else will come out of his ongoing federal civil suit in Florida, which he reportedly is still under investigation for by the NFL and could be disciplined further if additional violations of the conduct policy are found.

If the answers to those two lingering questions are favorable to Brown, most seem to agree the ideal landing spots for him are Seattle and Baltimore. Both are led by strong, secure Super Bowl-winning coaches in Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh, and they’re also quarterbacked by athletic, dynamic MVP-caliber quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson, both of whom have worked out with Brown recently and seem to want him on their teams.

Perhaps most critically, both teams believe they are right on the edge of winning the Super Bowl, and might be willing to gamble. With the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and their supercharged offense standing between everyone else and the championship, there’s no doubt teams will have to score a lot to win it all, and to that end, it’s not hard to envision Brown being the final piece to each team’s championship puzzle.

Seattle, for instance, could roll out a dynamic Brown-Tyler Lockett-D.K. Metcalf trio at receiver, while Baltimore could pair Brown with his speedy cousin, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and give defenses the head-splitting choice of either playing two deep and getting gashed by the run or stacking the box and watching the deep ball fly over their heads for big plays and scores.

Throw in the fact Brown looks like he’s in incredible shape and will come relatively cheap, and it’s plausible to envision a team taking the risk of signing Brown.

If someone ultimately does, it will offer all the proof you need of the win-at-all-costs mentality in the NFL, and the short memory teams also have when a championship hangs in the balance.

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