The New England Patriots’ 2018 offseason was filled with rumors and speculation. After the team’s defeat in Super Bowl 52, there were questions about Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s commitment, Rob Gronkowski’s future with the club, and the virtual benching of Malcolm Butler ahead of the title game. Add some big free agency and coaching losses and you have yourself a tumultuous offseason — at least on the surface.
Enter the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For most of the past two decades, the team was one of New England’s main rivals for the AFC crown and as well run an organization as any in the NFL. However, things are currently taking a turn for the worse and two of the Steelers’ foundational pillars are involved. It all started last offseason, when Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on star running back Le’Veon Bell for the second straight year.
The team made the decision to tag him after Bell refused to sign a contract offer rumored to be worth around $70 million on a five-year deal, with around $33 million in guarantees. However, the three-time Pro Bowler was not happy about that and as a result refused to sign the tender sheet. Ultimately, he preferred sitting out the 2018 season than signing the one-year, $14.5 million contract that the tag represented.
Bell will now hit the free agency market next month. And if it goes according to the second of the Steelers’ “Killer Bs” — wide receiver Antonio Brown — he will be joined on the bus out of Pittsburgh soon. Brown, after all, is looking for the team to move on from him via trade. And earlier today, he officially requested a move by posting the following video on his official Twitter account:
The message is clear: Brown wants out of Pittsburgh, and he is taking his demands to the public. It remains to be seen whether or not the Steelers will give in and move on from the 30-year old, who played second fiddle to JuJu Smith-Schuster last season, but it cannot be denied that they have a massive problem at their hands — one that is not going to be any easier to solve with Brown’s latest social media post.
Ultimately, one thing becomes clear by the recent drama coming out of the AFC North: the Patriots’ 2018 offseason was not as wild as a lot of the reports coming out of Foxboro made it seem, especially when compared to what Pittsburgh is currently experiencing. The Antonio Brown saga is no rumor, it is real and it will impact the club one way or the other as a recent tweet by ESPN’s Field Yates reiterates:
Antonio Brown trade reminders:
* He’s due a $2.5M roster bonus on March 17th
* If traded before 3/17, the Steelers would absorb a dead cap hit of $21.12M, $23.62M if after 3/17
* Brown is due $12.625M in 2019, $11.3M in 2020, $12.5M in 2021
* Brown turns 31 on July 10
Safe to say that the situation will be an interesting one to monitor, especially since the Patriots are not involved (and they will not be, it would be a huge surprise if Brown ended up in New England). But now that this has been written, there will probably be some new rumor coming out of Foxboro soon.