The Seattle Seahawks reportedly were having internal discussions about signing free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown last week. Meanwhile, NBC Sports Bay Area's Donte Whitner believes the 49ers should add the talented but controversial player.
Former NFL executive and current analyst Michael Lombardi thinks that if either of those two possibilities play out, it will determine which team is the favorite to win the NFC West and possibly represent the conference in Super Bowl LV (h/t 49ers Web Zone).
"I think Antonio Brown shifts the balance of power in the West (if he signs there)," Lombardi said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game's "Joe, Lo & Dibs" show. "I think if Seattle gets him, they become the favorite. I think if the 49ers get him, they maintain the favorite. Remember, we're six inches away from Seattle hosting [a playoff] game.
"There's that line of balance. Even though the Niners dominated come playoff time, that little bit of balance that's in that conference, I think, is going to be shifted. Antonio Brown would make Seattle, to me, an NFC Super Bowl contender immediately, and he would ensure that the 49ers had their place."
Lombardi is correct in pointing out the difference between the 49ers winning the division last season -- and not the Seahawks -- was Dre Greenlaw's game-saving tackle at the goal line in Week 17. However, let's not forget that Seattle required overtime to beat an injury-depleted San Francisco team earlier in Week 10. The 49ers might not have as much of a cushion atop their division as some of the other top teams in the league, but I'd argue it's larger than most recall, and the stats certainly back that up.
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And, if the 49ers already are considerable favorites in their division -- not to mention the current betting favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl by a decent margin -- they don't need Brown to cement their place atop the conference. Yes, Deebo Samuel must work his way back from a Jones fracture, but San Francisco is optimistic he'll be able to return in time for the Week 1 home game against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers also are expecting Jalen Hurd to make a big leap in his second season, while Kendrick Bourne and first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk figure to be major parts of the offense, too.
Brown's track record speaks for itself. Though he brings more talent to the table than each of those players, he's not worth the distraction that comes along with it, particularly for a team that held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV. San Francisco already came to that conclusion prior to the start of last season, well before the team had established itself as the cream of the crop in the NFC.
"We took a quick look and then we just said, 'Hey, we're not interested in that for our team,'" 49ers general manager said of acquiring Brown in March of 2019.
Based on what has transpired since those comments, it begs the question as to why San Francisco would feel compelled to bring that circus into the locker room. The best reason, arguably, would be to keep him away from other NFC contenders, especially those in the division. That, however, is not a good enough reason to mess with team chemistry. Not to mention, Brown has multiple legal hurdles he must overcome prior to ever stepping on the field in another NFL game.
If the Seahawks want to take that gamble, all the power to them. Frankly, it makes far more sense for them than it does the 49ers, given the ground they must make up in the division. Seattle's reported consideration of Brown and Josh Gordon, not to mention the other major moves that recently have been made in the NFC West, would seem to be in direct response to the long-term threat San Francisco poses to those teams.
Perhaps the Seahawks will be convinced Brown has finally learned his lesson, and that they have the right people in place to keep him in check. Perhaps he'll be the opposite kind of teammate he has been throughout his tumultuous career, and provide Seattle with the missing ingredient needed to climb to the top.
Anything is possible, I suppose. But it's far more likely the Seahawks would end up adding their name to the growing list of teams that have acquired Brown out of competitive desperation, only to realize their mistake after it was too late.