Antonio Brown continues to distance himself from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise that helped develop him into the All-Pro wide receiver he is today.
On Sunday night, Brown took to Instagram to post a painting of him mashed with legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, whose San Francisco 49ers has been heavily recruiting Brown over the past month:
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) January 14, 2019
On Monday morning, Rice told San Francisco’s 95.7 The Game that Brown “wants to come here [the 49ers] really bad.”
It’s been an astronomically dramatic falling out between Brown and the Steelers that included missed practices, an altercation with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and basically a benching in the final week of the 2018 season. The 30-year-old has yet to speak with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin or Pittsburgh management as it only feels as though it’s a matter of time before he is traded.
Even though his actions have warranted the label “diva” by many of his detractors, there is no denying that Brown is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. In 15 games this season, he recorded 104 receptions for 1,297 and a league-leading 15 receiving touchdowns. It was the sixth-straight season in which he recorded at least 100 receptions while averaging 1,590 yards per 16 games.
His attitude isn’t going to do him any favors on the trade market if his relationship with the Steelers is indeed unsalvageable. But there likely won’t be any shortage of interest.
Along with the 49ers, the Denver Broncos are believed to be a major team to watch, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport during an appearance on NFL Gameday Morning on Saturday.
After trading Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans mid-season, Denver will be in search of a premier wide receiver to put alongside veteran Emmanuel Sanders and youngster Courtland Sutton.
But the New York Jets could also be a suitor for Brown as a locker room culture shift is underway after the hiring of Adam Gase as head coach.
The Jets will have over $100 million in cap space this offseason, so they should have no problems fitting Brown’s $12.1 AAV through the 2021 season. His skill set would be a huge acquisition for developing quarterback Sam Darnold, who came off a promising rookie season despite lacking a true No. 1 talent at the wide receiver position.
With the Jets also possibly in the hunt for free-agent running back Le’Veon Bell, Gang Green could quickly build an AFC East contender thanks to two former Steelers.
It all depends on whether they want to risk their locker room chemistry for such a talent.