While there’s been plenty of talk about whether the Patriots would consider bringing back Antonio Brown if he’s cleared by the NFL of any wrongdoing, perhaps we should consider another option: What if a team other than New England signs the embattled wide receiver?
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk floated the possibility this week on NBC Sports Boston’s “Patriots Talk Podcast” while discussing Brown, who met with NFL investigators last week regarding troubling allegations of sexual misconduct and since has apologized to Patriots owner Robert Kraft for the “bad media” and “drama” that surrounded his unceremonious release from New England earlier this season.
“Here’s the other side of it, and this is a very important dynamic,” Florio said. “It comes down to how badly you want to win Super Bowl No. 7 for the Patriots. Because if you don’t sign him, it’s not an up-or-down, binary choice where it’s either, ‘We have him or we don’t.’
“There’s a much more important net loss here. And that’s if you don’t sign him, somebody else will. Somebody else may be the Ravens or the Chiefs. Or some other team you’ll have to deal with in early February. Maybe you see him in the Super Bowl. Maybe he’ll be playing for the Seahawks then. So that’s where the Patriots really need to think long and hard about whether they want to deal with Antonio Brown on another team. Because it’s not, ‘We either use him or we don’t use him.’ It’s, ‘Either we use him or somebody else is gonna use him and make it harder for us to try and do what we’re trying to do.’ ”
There’s no denying the Patriots could use help at receiver. They acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons before the trade deadline, and rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry made his NFL debut Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles after being activated off injured reserve. But the Patriots recently moved on from Josh Gordon, and Sanu, Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett all are dealing with injuries ahead of New England’s Week 12 game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Pats also have received very little production from their tight ends this season in wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement.
This is all to suggest yes, the Patriots probably would be a better football team with Brown back in the mix. Not only is he immensely talented. He also flashed a special connection with quarterback Tom Brady during his 11-day stint with New England that included one game, a 43-0 win over the Miami Dolphins in which Brown caught four passes for 56 yards with a touchdown. Obviously, it’s a complicated situation, though, and it’s hard to blame the Patriots for reportedly having no interest in re-signing the seven-time Pro Bowl selection, as his playing status remains up in the air and it’s entirely possible Kraft holds a grudge from Brown’s harsh criticism on his way out the door back in September.
All told, it would be rather demoralizing for New England if Brown ultimately signs elsewhere and comes back to haunt the Patriots when the stakes are raised in the playoffs.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images