Over a year ago, the New England Patriots released star wide receiver Antonio Brown, just 11 days after signing him, when allegations of wrongdoing off the field sprung up around him.
Brown landed himself on the commissioner’s exempt list while the NFL conducted an investigation into Brown’s off-field issues. After some months, the NFL’s investigation concluded, and Brown was given an eight-game suspension, making him eligible to play week nine of this season.
Last week, reports started cropping up that the Seahawks had been showing interest in signing Brown. A few days after that, there were reports saying that the Buccaneers were also interested in signing him.
Almost immediately after news broke that the Bucs were interested, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Brown intended to sign a one-year deal with the Buccaneers.
To be honest, when I heard the news, I wasn’t really surprised. The Buccaneers have been turning the paper clip, stick of gum and spare change in the pocket of their old jeans into offensive firepower this whole offseason.
First and foremost, they signed the greatest quarterback of all time to a two-year, $50 million deal. I know he’s old, but $25 million a year for Tom Brady — at any age — is a bargain when you consider the money owners are throwing at quarterbacks nowadays.
They traded a fourth-round pick for recently un-retired Rob Gronkowski, and they signed the disgruntled-yet-talented Leonard Fournette to a one-year, $1 million deal.
Therefore, the Bucs signing a four-time all-pro receiver to a one-year, $2.5 million deal seemed about right.
Back when Brady first signed in Tampa and before the Buccaneers made all the other transactions, I thought the Tampa Bay offensive weapons might be the best that Brady has ever had in his career.
Many, myself including, considered Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to be the best wide receiver duo in the league.
Add Gronkowski, Fournette and Brown to the mix, and the idea that this supporting cast is the best that Brady has ever played with is no longer a claim; it’s just a fact.
Some may argue that Brown isn’t going to contribute or play like he used to, given he is 32-years-old and hasn’t seen live football action in over a year. If you are one of those people, let’s consider some things.
Before all of Brown’s crazy shenanigans with the Raiders and off-field issues, he was considered the best wide receiver in the league. Brown had an NFL record of 35 consecutive games with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards.
Brown didn’t achieved this high level of play because of physical traits (he’s only 5’ 10” and 185 pounds) or game-breaking speed (he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the Combine, which is about average for today’s receivers).
Brown played at that high level because of his elite route-running skills and his ability to find the open spaces in zone coverages. Both these skills are things that Brown will still be able to do at a high level, even if he has lost a little bit of his speed.
Simply put, if Brown is 70 percent of the player he was two years ago, he’ll still be the best third wide receiver in the league. For example, the Jets’ third wide receiver is Braxton Berrios, and I’m pretty sure you have no clue who he even is.
Some may also argue that signing Brown is a risk because he’s been such a liability for his past few teams when it comes to his off-field antics. Considering this, I don’t think there’s a better fit in the league right now for Brown than the Buccaneers.
Head coach Bruce Arians and Brady are both no-nonsense guys, and if Brown starts to run off the rails, they aren’t going to put up with it at all.
In fact, in an interview with Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, Arians was asked what his message to Brown would be. Arians responded that Brown either acts like a team player, or he’s gone.
It’s clear to me that Arians and the Bucs will have absolutely no tolerance for any behavioral issues Brown may present. With that being the case, this move really is a no-brainer for them.
The scary thing about this signing is that the Bucs look like they’re finally starting to hit their stride.
In addition to the aforementioned stacked offense, the Bucs also arguably feature the best defense in the league led by the most underrated linebacker on any team: Lavonte David.
In the last two weeks, I’ve marveled as I watched Tampa obliterate what many considered, at the time, to be the best team in the league: the Green Bay Packers. They also easily handled a Las Vegas Raiders team that was coming off a stellar victory against the Chiefs.
Speaking of marvels, after the news broke that the Buccaneers were signing Brown, retired running back DeAngelo Williams tweeted, “So @TomBrady is Nick Fury and assembling the damn avengers in Tampa huh?”
For those of you who haven’t seen the “Avengers” movies, thank you for reading this far, but you can move on to the next story now because this analogy won’t make much sense to you.
The comparison to the Avengers made me laugh, but I think a comparison to Thanos is more accurate.
Remember how it felt watching the “Infinity War” movie when Thanos had only two infinity stones and still seemed unbeatable? Then he just kept on getting more stones and became even more invincible.
I’ve felt that same way watching the Buccaneers play the last couple weeks.
Brady just keeps on adding piece after piece and, like Thanos, it looks like he’s getting more and more unbeatable.
The NFL needs to watch out, because once he gets Brown, all Brady might have to do is snap his fingers, and he’ll make a Lombardi Trophy appear.