A Saints Trade for Antonio Brown Isn’t Far-Fetched — But Would it Be Worth the Trouble?

Photo by Paula R. Lively

Imagine just for a moment if a New Orleans Saints team that was essentially one missed “no call” away from making it to the Super Bowl last season, was suddenly able to add one of the NFL’s very best offensive players at the wide receiver position in the past decade, to their roster.

It would be almost ridiculous to even think about. It would be even more ridiculous for opposing NFL defenses trying to figure out how to stop an already talent-laden and top-rated Saints offense that features names such as Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara.

And more importantly from the organization’s point of view: it would make them guaranteed favorites next season to win Super Bowl LIV (54) in Miami, Florida, (ironically where they won their only Super Bowl a decade ago).

That player, of course, is current Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown — the four-time NFL 1st Team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection who in recent seasons has led the entire League in total catches, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions. In nine NFL seasons, he has tallied over 11,000 receiving yards and 74 TDs.

Photo by Keith Allison

This past Monday, the controversial star whose off-field antics have earned him the label of having a “diva” personality, was accompanied by both his father and his agent as they formally met with Steelers owner Art Rooney II to discuss Brown’s future with their team, which has been in question since the end of Pittsburgh’s season last month.

In the end, both sides agreed to go their separate ways, with Steelers team brass agreeing to officially put Brown on the trading block for the rest of the 2019 off-season, as reported initially by ESPN.

The former college superstar from the University of Central Michigan and the Steelers’ 6th-Round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Brown will undoubtedly have some intriguing options as teams decide whether or not to pursue the 30-year old who clearly still has a few years remaining in which he can compete at a very high level.

And while there certainly would be some interest on the part of New Orleans to at least consider the possibility, the question becomes:

Could the Saints actually pull it off?

As it turns out, it probably wouldn’t be as far-fetched as one might be led to believe.

While it’s true that New Orleans doesn’t currently have a 1st Round pick to offer Pittsburgh in this April’s 2019 NFL Draft, the Black and Gold could still conceivably put together a trade offer that would package their 2nd round pick this year (#62 overall) along with their 1st Round pick in next year’s NFL Draft, as compensation.

And that might just be as good as any offer they eventually get, given that more than a few teams will be leery of offering much else for a player already on the downside of 30 years old.

Nevertheless, it goes without saying purely from an “X’s and O’s” standpoint that putting Brown into a Saints offense that quite literally had zero production from their wide receiver position last season (other than All-Pro #1 WR Michael Thomas), would make the Saints offense even better than it was in 2018.

Brown is still a pure stud (figuratively-speaking from the football sense), and his speed and precision route-running would make him the near-perfect complementary weapon that New Orleans lacked opposite of Thomas at times last year.

And for a Saints team that has been so agonizingly close to making it to the Super Bowl for the past two years, it’s certainly a move that could potentially pay off in huge dividends.

New Orleans is unquestionably considered to be in “win now” mode (especially after the way that they were defeated by the Rams), and the front office duo of GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton have previously shown a willingness  to do whatever it takes to win another title before QB Drew Brees eventually retires.

Acquiring the services of a proven All-Pro like Antonio Brown would be a sure sign that they are more than serious on making that goal come true.

Ultimately though, the Saints might decide that he just isn’t worth the trouble.

He wants so much money that the organization simply can’t afford to pay him, and his off-the-field behavior doesn’t exactly bode well for any potentially great player-coach relationship down the line with Payton.

According to Spotrac, Brown’s current contract will pay him $23.8 million over the next two seasons; meaning that whichever team that decides to take the risk and pull the trigger on a trade with Pittsburgh would have to pay out that money themselves. Additionally, that same team will also take a direct $15.2 million hit against their 2019 salary cap.

You don’t have to be an expert in finance or a mathematics enthusiast, to appreciate exactly where the Saints stand on that, especially since they already are set to pay Brees $33.5 million of the team’s salary cap in 2019.

And with New Orleans already on the verge of having to fork over a big payday to Thomas once his rookie contract expires after next season, the thought of paying all that money for just those few players in that period of time doesn’t seem like the most prudent idea.

ESPN beat writer Jeremy Fowler noted that an even bigger issue for Brown getting his wish for a trade out of the Steel City is the guaranteed money that he wants up front. According to Fowler, Brown doesn’t have any guarantees left on his current deal; and even though he is due to receive a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17th, Pittsburgh might avoid paying him any more money by trading or releasing him before that date.

Since NFL contracts can be reworked, Brown could ask a new team to convert salaried money into a guarantee; which was actually the exact same strategy that Steelers team brass used twice with Brown in the past.

But money issues aside, the biggest obstacle (and the reason why those Saints fans hoping for this trade to happen are going to be disappointed) is his off-the-field conduct, and Saints management has a previous history of having a low tolerance for foolishness that could potentially disrupt their team or locker room camaraderie.

This is the same player who in the past several months, has yelled at teammates and members of the Steelers coaching staff on the sidelines during games, recently no-showed a court date for a handful of reckless driving tickets, and basically has embarrassed both himself and the Steelers franchise via his antics on Social Media by generally making a total and complete ass of himself.

If Brown had a better attitude or approach to his own situation, and/or if he was just a player that was looking to make a fresh start, then he clearly would be perceived and viewed quite differently.

But unfortunately, he is not. And neither will his antics change that perception.

The Saints making a trade for Antonio Brown isn’t all that far-fetched. Unfortunately for a team that still so desperately wants to win the Super Bowl, it’s really just not worth the trouble.

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.

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