With Antonio Brown's latest tweet bidding adieu to the Steelers and their fans, comes a whole new set of responses from everyone regarding the All-Pro receiver.
What we haven't seen yet is any real interest emerge yet for Brown. But that will be forthcoming. In fact, you can expect that market to begin to take shape at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, here are some odds (my own) on where Brown might end up.
49ers (3-1): The favorite, if only because Brown has expressed an interest in playing there and the 49ers have both the need, cap space and draft capital to make it happen. The 49ers aren't going to give up the No. 2 pick in this year's draft to acquire Brown. That's just dreaming. But if they are willing to part with their second-round pick (No. 36 overall) and a player who could help this season (WR Marquise Goodwin, CB Tarvarius Moore, LB Fred Warner), the deal would be worthwhile, even if the Steelers had to also include, say, their first sixth-round pick (from Oakland) to San Francisco.
Raiders (4-1): On the other side of the Bay, for at least another year, are the Raiders, who are in dire need of star power as they ready for their move to Las Vegas in 2020. What better way to do that than to acquire both Brown and Le'Veon Bell? The Raiders have the draft capital (picks 4, 24, 27 and 35 just in the first two rounds) to make something like that happen. They also have $70 million in cap space. They aren't going to give up the 4th-overall pick, but if they traded the 24 or the 27, that would be like dealing Amari Cooper for Brown. That's an upgrade in anyone's book.
Broncos (5-1): Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have feuded on social media in the past couple of months, but that's OK because Sanders is recovering from an Achilles' tendon injury. The Broncos could decide to cut bait with him, anyway. Denver has the cap space to make this happen and picks 10 and 41 in the first two rounds of the draft. If the Broncos offered the 41 and a player (linebacker Todd Davis or safety Will Parks would be interesting), it might be enough. But it's not the most enticing deal.
The Field (5-1): The Steelers aren't going to trade Brown to other AFC contenders or within their division, so that takes the Browns, Bengals, Ravens, Patriots, Colts, Chiefs and Chargers out of the equation. That's seven teams. But there are some others who could certainly use Brown if they could figure out a way to make it happen.
Bills (6-1): Buffalo needs playmakers for young quarterback Josh Allen. And it has $79 million in cap space. The problem the Bills face is attracting free agents to go to Buffalo. So with Brown having three years remaining on his current deal, this could be the perfect way to acquire a weapon for Allen. The Bills have a solid defense in place and just need some offense to go with it. Would Brown balk at going to Buffalo? Perhaps. But he doesn't have a choice in the matter and the Bills have the cap space available to sign him to a deal that makes him the highest-paid receiver in the league, if they so choose. They also have the 9th pick in the draft. If the Steelers offered Brown and the 20th pick, for the 9th pick and Buffalo's third-round pick (74th), it would make a lot of sense.
Jets (8-1): Like the Bills, the Jets need playmakers for their young quarterback, Sam Darnold. And like the Bills, the Jets have plenty of cap space at just under $91 million. But they might have to overpay a bit because they're second-fiddle in their own city. Brown and Odell Beckham are good friends, so bringing Brown into the same city likely wouldn't be a blow to either's ego. And like the Bills, the Jets would probably have to tear up Brown's current deal to ease his mind. But the problem is that the Jets don't have the draft capital to make this happen. They're unlikely to trade their first-round pick (third overall), and they already traded their second-round pick (34th) to the Colts. They don't pick again until the third round at pick 68. That's certainly not enough to acquire Brown unless the Jets want to include linebacker Darron Lee or safety Jamal Adams, which seems unlikely. That's why I have the Jets lower than most.
Steelers (10-1): Can the Steelers kiss and make up with Brown? It seems highly unlikely now given everything that has transpired. And he certainly seems to have no desire to be here in 2019, which is the first thing that would have to change. Then would come the apologies and everything that goes with them. But the Steelers are certainly a better team with Brown than without. And he's a better player here than he would be with, for example, the Bills or Jets. Perhaps at some point he realizes that, as well, before it's too late. But we're fast approaching the point of no return.
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