By Sports Editor Tom Griffin
For the time being, it’s official: Antonio Brown is now a part of the Patriots offense.
Brown, the seven-time pro bowler and four-time All-Pro, spent a lengthy and fruitful eight-year tenure as the #1 wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but requested a trade at the end of their rocky 2018 season. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in the offseason, but never played a down for the new organization and quickly requested to be released from the team.
Mere hours after the news of his release reached the public, New England organized and inked a one-year, $15 million deal with the receiver, bolstering the previously weak Patriots receiving core from the season prior. Making room for Brown on both roster and salary cap, the Patriots traded new addition Demaryius Thomas to the New York Jets.
As an individual athlete, Brown is one of the most talented and athletic wide outs in the league currently. His unrivaled ability to make plays on the ball – over, around or behind cornerbacks – creates a deep threat for even the most lockdown secondaries. Averaging 93 receptions and 1,245 receiving yards per season with the Steelers, Brown would likely produce in dividends in an offense organized by Josh McDaniels and operated by Tom Brady. Even when he isn’t targeted, his presence on the field draws opposing secondary strength, creating opportunities downfield for Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman and rookie Jacobi Meyers.
Signing Brown, however, has its downsides. He is known throughout the league for his massive ego, throwing several notorious sideline tantrums throughout his career when he is lacking in targets or not performing well. He has a history of conduct detrimental to his teams, including years of infighting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin, no-showing mandatory team practices, and choosing to sit out games due to personal conflicts within the locker room. Before the end of his tenure in Oakland, he and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock exchanged choice words in the locker room, after Brown had thought Mayock didn’t respect him.
Brown’s controversies extend outside the locker room and into the realm of legal battles. In October of last year, it was reported that Brown threw furniture off of the 14th floor balcony of his Florida apartment, nearly hitting a child below. Then, in January, Brown was at the center of a domestic assault on a former girlfriend, though charges were never filed.
Antonio Brown’s most recent controversy, which made headlines the day after he signed with New England, involves a civil suit alleging that the athlete sexually assaulted a former athletic trainer. The NFL has since interviewed the victim of the assault, engaging in its own investigation into Brown’s case, which could lead to league-mandated disciplinary action for the receiver.
Over the past two decades, the New England Patriots have had a reputation for signing highly talented yet highly volatile veterans, curbing their behavior, and grooming them into productive stars. Aqib Talib, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Darelle Revis and Josh Gordon comprise this list of players who signed with the Patriots, rehabilitated their careers, and put up career high statistics in the process. The last four, however, were key contributors to Patriots’ deep playoff runs, with Moss in 2007, Ochocinco in 2011, Revis in 2014 and Gordon in 2018. If history repeats itself, and he doesn’t fall victim to his own demons, Antonio Brown could be the centerpiece to another Super Bowl.