The Antonio Brown saga in Oakland is officially over. Helmetgate. Holding out of camp. Fines. Social media posts. Holding out again. Everything came to a head on Saturday morning when Brown requested to be released from the team, and the Oakland Raiders acquiesced, allowing him to sign with any team willing to roll the dice. And so begins the chase to sign the talented but drama-filled receiver.
There's a familiar name atop the list of potential suitors. The New England Patriots -- yes, the franchise of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and six Lombardi Trophies -- are the favorites to land the services of Brown, at 2-1, according to SportsLine's oddsmakers. The San Francisco 49ers are the 5-1 second choice.
Here's a list of the teams most likely to sign Brown, according to SportsLine's oddsmakers (odds for informational purposes only):
Speculation of Brown joining New England has been floating around social media circles even before the Raiders officially released him. After the retirement of future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski in the offseason, the Patriots have been in search of a top pass catcher. To help fill the void, the team re-signed oft-suspended receiver Josh Gordon and added aging receiver Demaryius Thomas, 31. New England also has scoured the free agent ranks for available tight ends, eventually settling for Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks, among others.
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Though Brown is not the large, bruising target that Gronkowski was, the receiver would give the Patriots exactly what they need. A dynamic playmaker on the outside who can stretch a defense or run short and intermediate routes, Brown would fill a void on a team where the most prolific pass-catcher, Julian Edelman, works in the slot. In nine NFL seasons -- all with the Pittsburgh Steelers -- Brown has 837 catches for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns.
After last season the receiver requested to be traded from the Steelers, and in March the team sent him to Oakland for two draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. His short-but-turbulent time with the SIlver and Black ended Saturday.
There's one more reason to think New England would be the leading contender to sign Brown: Joining the Patriots -- who have been the Steelers' nemesis over the past decade -- would be one way for the receiver to stick it to his (former) team. And he certainly has been doing a lot of that recently.
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