It’s time to do what sports fans do best: have a strong opinion about something, but then when it directly affects your team pull a complete 180 and spin it into a huge positive.
I’m not sure if you heard the news, but Antonio Brown is now a New England Patriot. In the words of Brown’s former coach, Jon Gruden, that’s wild, man.
Brown is here on a one year deal that can be worth up to $15 million, per reports, which includes a $9 million signing bonus. Exact details of the contract are unknown at the moment, but I would imagine and hope that it’s heavily incentive-laden and New England will have no problem cutting ties with Brown at the slightest hint of the same nonsense he pulled in Pittsburgh and Oakland. New England has gained a reputation as a last chance hotel for disgruntled players who want to show the league that it was their circumstances, not them, that led to previous issues. Sometimes it has worked out, sometimes it hasn’t, but what’s more or less universal is this: if you can’t fly right in New England, you’re done in the NFL.
Which is why Antonio Brown is going to be just fine.
Had he signed elsewhere, we’d of course be singing a different tune. We’d talk about how he’s a malcontent and a cancer and how he’s just going to blow up that locker room as well. We’d chuckle and shake our heads and say “ha, good luck, [insert team here]!” But, like virtually every sports fan on the planet, I’m a massive hypocrite, and so I have no problem ignoring all of the obvious red flags and only focusing on the positives.
And what are those positives, you ask?
- Just a few weeks ago, the New England receiving corps consisted of Braxton Berrios, Jakobi Meyers, Dontrelle Inman, and Maurice Harris. It now consists of Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, and Antonio Brown. Oh, let’s not forget Philip Dorsett and James White motioning out of the backfield.
- Josh Gordon is one of the best X receivers in the NFL. He amassed a 1600 yard season wi6h Jason Campbell throwing him the ball. His career YPR is an absurd 17.4, most by any active player
- Julian Edelman is the best slot receiver in the game. He’s about to overtake Jerry Rice as the most prolific playoff receiver in league history. Two 1,000 yard seasons, and Super Bowl MVP.
- Demaryius Thomas had five straight 1,000 yard seasons, four straight 1300 yard seasons, most recently catching passes with the Texans.
- Antonio Brown has had six straight seasons of over 1,200 yards and averaged 1,524 yards over his last six seasons. One of the best receivers in the NFL and the best Z receiver in the game, hands down.
I don’t know if this is the best WR unit the Patriots have ever had, but I’m going to argue that it is. I mean, a 3WR set with Gordon, Edelman, and Brown, with James White and Rex Burkhead in the backfield, then Tommy B motions both backs out wide and goes empty...how can you possibly cover that?
And I’ll spin this one some more. The Patriots were already favored to win the AFC East. Odds are they’re going to get a first round bye, blow their opponent out of the water in the Divisional Round, and host the AFC Championship game. That was all true before this signing. So what do the Patriots have to lose here? Is Antonio Brown that much of a nutjob that he can disrupt the most tightly run locker room in all of sports? If you want to think that, go right ahead - whatever helps you sleep at night. But the
spin zone reality of the situation is this: the Patriots don’t need Brown. If he produces, he’s going to have a hell of a season. If he acts up, he’s gone and the Patriots still make a deep playoff run.
I’m very aware that this unit still has a ton of question marks. Josh Gordon hasn’t played a full season in years. Edelman is 33. Thomas isn’t far removed from a serious Achilles injury. And up until this morning I considered Antonio Brown a lost cause - a sentiment that oddly vanished about three hours ago for some reason.
I haven’t been to any of the other SB Nation sites, and don’t plan on it tonight. But I’d like to hope that people all across the country have broken the Shift+8 command typing asterisks right now and strapping on their tinfoil hat to yell conspiracy, that this whole thing was planned from Day One, the Patriots are tampering, this whole thing is a joke, you name it. It would make my weekend to know that the “trash player going to trash organization. Typical” comments numbered in the tens of thousands. Because that’s what sports fans do. They hate when it’s not them and they spin when it is. It makes the whole thing more fun.
And you know what else is going to be fun? Watching three of the four active receivers who have posted a 1600 yard season all on the field for the same team catching passes from the greatest quarterback of all time. Kickoff can’t get here soon enough.