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It’s been about two weeks since the Pittsburgh Steelers met with disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown and agreed to try to trade him.
In the days since, we’ve heard only rumors of which teams are purportedly most interested in acquiring the talented but difficult Brown.
So which teams are those, and how likely does it seem that they’d end up with the seven-time Pro Bowler?
The reality is, there aren’t many teams that have the basics to get a deal done: crossing the other AFC North teams as well as the New England Patriots off the list brings the number down to 27; add in the necessary salary-cap space and being willing to alter Brown’s current contract (which is quite on-market), the draft capital and/or ability and willingness to trade an above-average player, and a strong head coach and structure in place to be able to bring in a player with a history of doing whatever he wants and getting away with it — and hopefully get him on board — and the list of possibilities narrows significantly.
Given everything — including Brown’s recent comments, whether on social media or in an ESPN interview or on LeBron James’ “The Shop” — we’re still convinced that when training camps open in July, Brown will still be with the Steelers.
Given that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is on the record as saying the team will want significant compensation in trade because Brown is a significant player, Oakland makes sense on that front because it has three first-round picks this year (Nos. 4, 25 and 27) as well as a high second-round pick (No. 35). The Raiders also have about $73 million in cap space right now according to OverTheCap.com.
Oakland could certainly use a top receiver: running back Jalen Richard and tight end Jared Cook led the team in receptions last season, with 68 each; in terms of true receivers, Jordy Nelson had a team-high 63 catches. Brown has averaged 114 catches per season since 2013.
The Raiders are unquestionably Jon Gruden’s team, as he has seemingly been given carte blanche to do what he pleases from owner Mark Davis, including forcing out the team’s general manager, Reggie McKenzie, and trading two of their best players, in Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. They also have an experienced quarterback in Derek Carr, who is both talented and generally respected by teammates.
Schefter reported that Gruden’s brother, Jay, and Washington have shown strong interest as well.
Washington has nine picks; its highest spots this year are No. 15 in the first round, as well as No. 46 in the second and two third-rounders at Nos. 76 and 96. It currently has just $17 million in cap space.
Washington isn’t known for making the best decisions in recent years, but from an organizational standpoint, it isn’t clear who the quarterback is going to be in 2019, and Jay Gruden doesn’t seem to be a strong head coach, either in position or demeanor.
A last team mentioned by Schefter was Tennessee, and in many ways, the Titans don’t seem too far-fetched.
For one thing, both general manager Jon Robinson and second-year head coach Mike Vrabel spent enough time with the Patriots to know how important structure is and generally requiring that all players conform to the same expectations; Vrabel is a pretty no-nonsense guy.
The Titans could certainly use a top-flight offensive skill player. Marcus Mariota is coming off his best season statistically, but has a history of injuries and is dealing with his fourth offensive coordinator as he enters his fifth season.
Tennessee is roughly $43 million under the cap currently, but only has six total draft picks, including its first-round pick at No. 19.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport mentioned the Broncos, but Brown doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of player John Elway would like given his attitude.
Denver is trading for Joe Flacco, who certainly dealt with a variety of personalities in his career with the Baltimore Ravens and has experience and a Super Bowl ring. New coach Vic Fangio is a rookie head coach, but a grizzled vet when it comes to coaching.
The Broncos do have $34.5 million in cap space currently, and a high first-round pick, No. 10, after their disappointing 2018 season; they have seven other draft picks.
Reported by Rapoport to be interested, the Cardinals would seem to be an unlikely suitor — and an in-house reporter quickly debunked the notion.
Arizona is heading into this season with a rookie head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, and will have either an unproven second-year quarterback in Josh Rosen or possibly a rookie quarterback, if the Cardinals-Kyler Murray smoke turns into a fire. General manager Steve Keim is likely fighting to save his job after a third-straight playoff-less season, the Steve Wilks hiring and firing in less than 12 months, and his own very public legal issue.
The Cardinals do have 11 draft picks this year, and $37.5 million in salary cap space.
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