After a dramatic falling out at the end of the 2018 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are making it clear that it's their intention to move on from superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown during the offseason.
In nine seasons with the organization, Brown put up extraordinary numbers. He caught 837 passes for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns while adding five touchdowns as a return man. He also caught 51 passes for 837 yards and four more touchdowns during 10 career playoff games.
However, all that production couldn't make up for the fact that Brown felt put out by the emergence of second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who received nearly the same target share (166-168) as Brown and was named team MVP after finishing with more catches and yards than Brown in 2018. And one working theory is that Brown wants out to show the Steelers just how much of an impact he's had while he was there.
That power struggle along with rocky relationships with head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are how the Steelers got to the point where they scratched him from the lineup before a crucial regular-season finale. Since the season ended, Brown has removed traces of the Steelers from his social media profiles and Art Rooney II said he couldn't envision Brown in Steelers camp next summer.
Want to cash in huge on next NFL, NBA, NHL, college sports and much, much more? Join SportsLine now to get picks from a proven computer model and Vegas experts, plus daily and season-long Fantasy advice and projections at half off the quarterly rate!
Now, just about every team in the league has to weigh whether Brown's productivity is worth the potential headaches he could cause in the locker room and in the huddle. Then they have to feel out what exactly the Steelers want for him and make another decision about whether he's worth the asking price and a cap hit worth an average of nearly $20 million the next three seasons.
That's no easy task, but BetDSI is handicapping the field with odds for all 32 teams on whether or not Brown will be on their roster in 2019.
Antonio Brown team in Week 1 of 2019 regular season
San Francisco 49ers +200
New York Jets +300
Buffalo Bills +450
Arizona Cardinals +500
Indianapolis Colts +600
Houston Texans +750
Cleveland Browns +1000
Oakland Raiders +1000
Chicago Bears +1000
Tennessee Titans +1500
Green Bay Packers +1500
Denver Broncos +1500
Pittsburgh Steelers +1500
Philadelphia Eagles +2000
Cincinnati Bengals +2000
Dallas Cowboys +2500
Washington Redskins +3000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3500
Seattle Seahawks +3500
Detroit Lions +4000
Atlanta Falcons +4000
Miami Dolphins +5000
Minnesota Vikings +5000
Baltimore Ravens +6000
New England Patriots +7000
Carolina Panthers +7000
Jacksonville Jaguars +10000
Kansas City Chiefs +15000
Los Angeles Rams +15000
New Orleans Saints +20000
Los Angeles Chargers +20000
New York Giants +30000
There are a lot of interesting options here, but the odds certainly favor teams with a lot of salary cap space, a young quarterback and need at wide receiver. Which is why the 49ers, Jets and Bills are the three favorites as of now.
In particular, the 49ers are interesting here because they play their games in a milder climate (though it's clear that Brown can hold his own in the cold after nine years in Pittsburgh) and they just look closer to ready than the other two teams. San Francisco competed well down the stretch with Nick Mullens as their starter and Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to be back after tearing his ACL early in the season.
The 49ers (+200) also have a young, offensively-minded head coach in Kyle Shanahan, they've got $62 million in projected cap space entering this offseason and they need a go-to playmaker badly. All the pieces fit which is why it makes sense that they're the favorites, but you'd love to be getting more value here with the potential that Pittsburgh's asking price could simply be too steep for 49ers general manager John Lynch.
Of course, the Jets (+300) have the massive draw of the New York City market to offer. Brown has proven to me a savvy marketer and a move to NYC would certainly stand to enhance his brand. Plus, the Jets have plenty of money with over $93 million in projected cap space.
As for the Bills, Buffalo (+450) might not be a super attractive market (and it makes the weather in Pittsburgh look like child's play), but Josh Allen is exciting and he's got a cannon. That's a plus for a wide receiver who prides himself on making big plays down the field.
The Cardinals (+500) just hired Kliff Kingsbury to be their head coach and it's fairly easy to see why an offensive talent who has made a fortune by putting up gargantuan numbers would be intrigued by playing an NFL-augmented Air Raid. They'll have close to $62 million to spend this offseason and can comfortably afford Brown's big base salary.
The Colts (+600) finally look like they're heading in the right direction again now that Andrew Luck is healthy after winning a playoff game earlier this month. And Luck would be awe-shucksing it up with Brown and T.Y. Hilton on the field at the same time, but it's reasonable to question if there would be enough targets to go around after what we just saw in Pittsburgh.
The same general concept applies to the Texans at +750. But good grief would it be fun to watch Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins overwhelming opposing defenses on a weekly basis.
Looking a little further down the odds board, the Cleveland Browns are intriguing at +1000. They've got plenty of cap space (over $82 million entering the offseason), a young quarterback and they look like they're on the upswing. However, the Steelers would be playing with fire trading him within the division where he could prove his point about his value twice a year.
The Titans (+1500) were only a win away from the postseason this year and the lack of a go-to wide receiver (Corey Davis is on the rise but is still far from established) was a reason why. But is Marcus Mariota the right QB for Brown?
Even if he is, his injury history and the idea that you might spend half your season with Blaine Gabbert throwing to you has to be a turn off for Brown. In a trade scenario, you might think what Brown wants wouldn't matter, but what team in their right mind would trade for him if there was even a chance he'd be unhappy to be there and behave the way he did when he was unhappy in Pittsburgh?
The Packers (+1500) have the right quarterback to appeal to Brown and Aaron Rodgers is probably also the right type of personality to work well with Brown in a vacuum. However, the emergence of Davante Adams as one of the NFL's best might put Brown in another situation where he's not getting the targets he expects.
At +1500, the Broncos are an interesting flyer and could be incredibly appealing depending on what they do this offseason at quarterback. However, the current social media feud between Brown and would-be partner in wrecking secondaries Emmanuel Sanders throws a wrench into that idea.
Pick: For the exact reason that winding up in Cleveland is a longshot, the Steelers probably wouldn't want to trade Brown anywhere in the AFC if they had their pick. That rules out a number of places he'd actually seem to fit like New England (+7000 with a history of getting the most out of problematic wide receivers).
Which gives the 49ers another box to check. They're on the other side of the league and the Steelers would take the chance that he shows up across from them in a Super Bowl because it means they're playing in the Super Bowl.