With Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown potentially on the trading block this offseason, should the Green Bay Packers consider making a trade offer?
It seems like more years than not during the Mike Tomlin era in Pittsburgh there is always some sort of turmoil brewing within the locker room, and this year was no different.
Leading up to Pittsburgh’s final game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals with their playoff hopes still alive, Brown missed a team meeting, skipped the Saturday walkthrough which resulted in him being benched for the game.
Recently, owner Art Rooney II had some strong words in regards to Browns’ actions in the final week of the season. Rooney stated that they would not waive Brown but “all other options are on the table”, as well as “it’s hard to envision” Brown being a Steeler come summer time.
Since teams have become aware that Brown will be available via trade, there have been a few teams named that will reportedly make a run at the wide receiver. According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the potential suitors include the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and your Green Bay Packers.
Naturally there is some risk to bringing in Brown but also a heavy reward. As the Packers find themselves in the midst of a mini-rebuild, adding Brown could be just what this offense needs to become revitalized.
Packers need at wide receiver
Even with Aaron Rodgers under center, this Green Bay Packers offense is a far cry from what it was just a few years ago. This is due to a myriad of reasons, not just because of the receiver position but it’s clear that there is a lack of trust between Rodgers and the rookies, as well as less overall talent than there has been in the past.
When the offense was at its most dynamic Rodgers had Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson at his disposal. Now other than Davante Adams, the receiving corps struggles to find consistency.
Randall Cobb hasn’t lived up to his second contract and has missed a number of games due to injuries, Geronimo Allison was placed on IR, while rookies Equanimeous St. Brown (EQ) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS) show a lot of potential but don’t appear ready to be second and third options at receiver.
Rodgers is coming off of a down year where he completed just 62.13 percent of his passes, 26th in the NFL, and averaged just 7.4 yards per attempt, good for 17th in the league last season. Not numbers we are used to seeing from an Aaron Rodgers-led offense.
Having two rookies with significant playing time was a contributor to Green Bay’s stagnant offense as Rodgers completed just 52.1 percent of his throws when targeting MVS and 58.3 percent when throwing EQ’s way.
In the red zone, an area the Packers have been very dominant in over the years, they scored a touchdown 61.7 percent of the time according to Team Rankings. Other than a late push at the end of the season in games against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, Green Bay spent much of the season ranked in the bottom half of the league in this category.
In fact, their red zone success in 2018 was lower than it was in 2017 when backup quarterback Brett Hundley started a majority of the games that season.
As I stated above, by no means is all of the blame to be placed on the receiving corps, but it was part of the problem. Regardless of who the player is, the Green Bay Packers should bring in a veteran option this offseason that Rodgers can build trust with quickly.
Antonio Brown by the numbers
It goes without saying that Brown is one of the top receivers in the league and is wildly considered the best by many.
For being a smaller receiver, Brown can do it all on the football field. He has great hands, has the ability to line up anywhere, can beat man or zone coverages and will make the contested catches.
Over the last couple seasons Brown has been flat-out dominant. Below is the number of receiving touchdowns and yards Brown has recorded over the last three seasons.
- 2018: 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns
- 2017: 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns
- 2016: 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns
As fantastic as Adams’ 111-catch season was along with the 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns, this was the sixth straight season that Brown has caught at least 100 catches.
Having turned 30-years-old this previous summer, there are no signs on the field that Brown will be slowing down or that his production will wane anytime soon.
Antonio Brown is absolutely phenomenal on the football field but there is a reason that he is on the trading block and the explosive behavior that we have seen in Pittsburgh could follow him to Green Bay.
After his outburst in practice during the final week of the season, a couple former teammates were critical of Brown and his actions.
Some of Brown’s recent frustrations may have been linked to the success of teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was voted team MVP by the rest of the Steelers players.
As evidenced above, it is well-known that Brown cares very deeply about his own production and with the Green Bay Packers having their own star in Adams, would Brown be able to co-exist knowing that Adams is going to put up his fair share of production as well?
GM Brian Gutekunst needs to strongly consider what Brown could potentially do to the Packers locker room, as well as considering how Brown would be received by his new teammates given his actions at the end of the season.
What would it take to acquire Brown?
Although the Steelers will be looking for a first-round pick and then some in return for Brown, as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, a number of GMs believe he may go for less than that.
With 10 draft picks available for the Green Bay Packers including the New Orleans Saints’ first-round pick, they have the bargaining chips available to get this trade completed.
However, there are a number of positions the Packers will need to address this offseason and taking on Brown’s contract would take a big chunk out of their available cap space in 2019, which is roughly $42 million, according to Over The Cap.
With still three years left on his original four-year deal worth $68 million, the Packers would be taking on the bulk of his contract. If Brown remained a Steeler, the team would take cap hits of $22.17 million in 2019, $18.34 million in 2020 and $19.54 million in 2021, according to Spotrac.
There is no doubt that if the Green Bay Packers traded for Brown that they would reap the rewards on the field. The combination of Brown and Adams would instantly become the top receiving duo in the NFL and would be an absolute nightmare for defenses.
Despite that, trading away top picks and paying a hefty salary for someone who may cause issues in the locker room presents a big risk. Especially for a team that is trying to reconstruct their roster on the fly in order to get back to the winning ways that we’ve become accustomed to.
Regardless, this is an option at receiver that Gutekunst needs to look into and decide if the risk is worth the reward.