by Jordy McElroy
Every talking head known to man has spent the last few weeks twisting their brains into pretzels trying to figure out ways for the New England Patriots to improve their sluggish offense. Who would have thought the man with the best idea in the room could be troubled former five-time All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown?
“[If] you guys follow the Patriots, tell them to call me,” Brown said in a social media post. “They still gotta pay me, so might as well let me earn it.”
The Patriots are on the hook for a $9 million signing bonus they’ve purposely withheld after cutting Brown from the team back in September.
Brown has already filed grievances through the NFL Players Association in an effort to recoup the money he feels is owed to him. Considering the grievance isn’t likely to be settled until next spring, the Patriots’ limited cap situation is greatly affected by the Brown deal, which hurts their flexibility if they wanted to go out and add another offensive weapon.
Not to mention they are likely fighting a losing battle with the former wideout, who never violated any of the clauses outlined in the collective bargaining agreement that would certify a “forfeitable breach” in his contract. So the Patriots will have to pony up and pay him sooner or later.
Why not re-sign him and play him?
It might have already been a done deal if not for Brown’s side swipe at Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the way out.
“Kraft got caught in the parlor AB speculations fired different strokes different folks clearly,” Brown said in a not so subtle tweet that no longer exists.
Brown hasn’t been apologetic about anything he’s said or done in the last few months, and the amount of pride Kraft would have to swallow to agree to bring him back into the fold would be like gulping down a can of gasoline with a lit match. Could the Patriots stoop to that level of desperation?
Cue the Kraft and Brown walks into a bar jokes.
There’s no question the Patriots need Brown on the field after watching them over the last few weeks. The injury-riddled offensive line has stalled the run game and voided the balanced attack that helped the team win a Super Bowl last season.
Rookie first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry has yet to even take his first official NFL snap after being on injured reserve all season. Then there’s the curious case of Josh Gordon, who hasn’t been able to create separation consistently. He also went down with a nasty looking injury in Thursday’s game against the New York Giants and never returned.
As for the Rob Gronkowski return talks, they are simply sad and worn out at this point. Kraft even quipped on it in an interview segment. Never mind the fact that Gronkowski recently stood on a stage surrounded by media members, nearly in tears, pouring his guts out about the physical and psychological damage football did to him. It’s time to let that ship sail off into the sunset and leave Gronkowski to live his best life without feeling pressured into returning.
Goodbye, au revoir and addio.
The biggest elephant in the room of any potential future dealings with Brown is his lingering sexual assault lawsuit, which his accuser, Britney Taylor, is reportedly dropping her federal lawsuit and refiling in the state of Florida. Yet, the fallout from that case could take months or even years to render a verdict, and the NFL hasn’t shown any signs of placing Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list.
So there is a good chance he would actually be available to play this season if the Patriots opted to pick up the phone. Quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick reportedly wanted to keep him on the roster, while the rest of the legal process played out in court. That would leave Kraft on an island with a decision that could potentially make-or-break the Patriots 2019 season.
Even with one of the league’s all-time great defenses, it’s tough to envision the Patriots mustering the offseason firepower needed to hang with all-world quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read Brady’s body language and tell he clearly isn’t happy with the way things are going right now.
“I’m the quarterback. I don’t make those decisions,” Brady said, after the team cut veteran tight end Ben Watson. “Whoever’s out there, that’s who I’ve got to play with.”
Patriots fans have taken to a change.org petition (yes, seriously) in an effort to get the team to reconsider re-signing Brown. Obviously, Kraft’s opinion is the one that matters most in the room. If he green lights the move, Belichick could move quickly on bringing Brown back into the fold.
But Brown’s hastiness in pulling off the gloves might have dug a permanent grave for his No. 17 Patriots jersey. Whoever’s out there might end up being all that’s out there for an unbeaten Patriots team inching closer towards the meat of their cupcake schedule.