The fact that the Buccaneers said on Sunday that receiver Antonio Brown is no longer on the team, coupled with the fact that he remains on the team, has sparked growing speculation that the team is indeed trying to keep Brown from landing elsewhere.
This presumes that someone would claim Brown on waivers or sign him, if/when he becomes available. There’s a strong feeling in league circles that, this time around, no team will give Brown another second chance. That the visuals emerging from Sunday’s meltdown make him radioactive, temporarily if not permanently.
Personally, I don’t buy it. Apart from the fact that it only takes one of 32 teams to say “yes” to any unpopular player, Brown has come back from worse. In 2019, after weeks of antics and dysfunction with the Raiders resulted in his abrupt release, the Patriots immediately swooped in and signed him. After the Patriots cut him after only one game, he remained unemployed for the balance of the 2019 season not for lack of interest but because the NFL wouldn’t say whether he’d be placed on paid leave, if signed.
Then, the Buccaneers (at the obvious behest of Tom Brady), rolled the dice in 2020, giving him a landing spot after he served an eight-game suspension. It paid off, with a Super Bowl ring. Then, after a three-game suspension this season for submitting a fake vaccination card, the Buccaneers didn’t cut him, despite the October 2020 huffing and puffing from coach Bruce Arians. Instead, they welcomed him back.
Dysfunction is temporary. Super Bowl rings are permanent. Whether it’s the Chiefs, Packers, or Rams (the three teams I’d watch the most closely), one of them could very well make a move if/when Brown becomes available. I’m watching the Chiefs the most closely. They gave receiver Josh Gordon his latest second chance earlier this year, and Gordon has five catches for 32 yards in 11 games. Brown can do that in his sleep; indeed, he had 10 catches for 101 only 10 days ago -- his first game in 10 weeks.
The fact that he remains on the Tampa Bay roster suggests that the Buccaneers, while not wanting him on their team, don’t want him showing up in the uniform of one of their opponents in the postseason. With each passing hour, that perception comes closer to being the realistic explanation.