By Sports Editor Tom Griffin
Almost as quickly as he had joined the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown has found himself off the team, and subsequently jobless.
During his stay in New England, screenshots emerged of threatening text messages sent by Brown to a female artist, whom the wide receiver had contracted to paint a mural of himself. Following unwanted sexual advances that the artist declined, Antonio Brown cancelled the mural deal, and continued to harass and threaten both her and her family.
His release, following new evidence to an ongoing sexual assault lawsuit involving his former trainer, drew an end to a tenure of less than two weeks with the organization. In that span of time, Brown appeared in only one game, gaining 56 yards and hauling in a single touchdown in a 43-0 blowout rout against the Dolphins.
After his most recent release, Brown informally announced his retirement on twitter, stating that he “will not be playing in the NFL anymore” and citing grievances with owners over sudden termination.
In the wake of all of his recent controversies, Antonio Brown also announced that he would be returning to his alma mater, Central Michigan University, to continue higher education.
The NFL has been conducting their own private investigation into Brown’s involvement in the sexual assault of his trainer, including interviews conducted between the victim and league executives. If found guilty by the league, Antonio Brown could be either temporarily added to the Commissioner Exempt list or, in severe cases, permanently banned from NFL play, should he wish to return in the future.
His signing and early release have harsh consequences to the Patriots roster, especially in the team’s salary cap and player movement options. Making room for the star wide receiver in early September, the team released veteran Houston Texans acquisition Demaryius Thomas, who was quickly claimed by the New York Jets.
Following Brown’s signing, the Patriots took a salary cap hit of $5.75 million for the 2019 season, followed by a $4.75 million hit for the following year. Considering the near $7.5 million worth of dead money lost in both the release of Brown and the consequential release of Thomas, New England is left with little over $3 million in cap space to plug future holes in the roster.
This lack of cap space makes signing new players at key positions of need extremely difficult. The receiving corps, mourning the losses of both Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas, is currently strapped for talent, relying almost entirely on Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon for movement through the air.
The offensive line, following injuries from David Andrews, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt and Isiah Wynn, is littered with second-string substitutes and struggling to keep Tom Brady protected in the pocket.
Even the team’s kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, found himself sidelined for the remainder of the season with a hip injury.
While the new-look Patriots defense is as rock-solid as the league can allow, it’s likely that the offense would be firing on all cylinders had Antonio Brown not been an addition in September.