The thick of the NFL offseason has already arrived which means free agency will soon begin in earnest. Teams cannot contact unrestricted free agents until March 15, exactly two days before the start of the 2021 league year. However, news regarding the top players will circulate before the free agency officially kicks off, and this year’s market could feature big-name talents like Dak Prescott, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay. The franchise tag will likely remove one or more from the open market, but more will reach free agency when the legal-tampering period opens.
2020 in review
Antonio Brown’s 2020 began under the same cloud as much of his 2019. The four-time All-Pro receiver faced legal issues stemming from allegations levied by his former trainer as well as disputes with the police department of Hollywood, Florida, among other concerns. Brown also announced retirements on multiple occasion during the 2020 offseason. The NFL eventually handed down a suspension for eight weeks for multiple violations of the league’s personal-conduct policy.
As a result, Brown remained unsigned through the first month and change of the 2020 season. However, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, a teammate of Brown’s during the wideout’s brief stay with the New England Patriots the year before, helped pave the way for a reunion in Florida. Brown appeared in his first game with the Buccaneers on Nov. 8, catching just three passes for 31 yards. He wouldn’t record a touchdown until late December and didn’t produce 100 receiving yards in a game until the season finale.
Even so, Brown remains one of Brady’s most trusted receivers, a factor that weighs heavily in the receiver’s favor as the Buccaneers attempt to retain as much of their Super Bowl-winning roster as possible.
As highlighted by the dearth of suitors for Brown’s services over the past two seasons, it will take a certain kind of team to sign the veteran wideout. Not only will that organization have to accept the risk of his legal battles, but it will also need a locker room that can handle Brown’s sometimes inexplicable behavior (see Helmetgate). Perhaps the Miami Dolphins, with head coach Brian Flores, could manage those issues and add Brown to a receiving corps that includes DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Jakeem Grant, and a bunch of question marks.
Do the Buccaneers want to keep him?
If Brady wants Brown, the chances of a reunion appear strong. Brown didn’t have a strong market the last two times he reached free agency and he turns 33 in July, giving the Buccaneers an opportunity to re-sign him. The team could have even more incentive to bring back Brown if Chris Godwin escapes in free agency.
If Brown and Godwin return, the former’s role shouldn’t change significantly from last season. However, if Godwin does depart, Brown could see more work in the slot and more targets full stop.
No report has yet surfaced connecting Brown with a team besides the Buccaneers.