Desperate times call for desperate measures. After the Davante Adams trade left the Green Bay Packers with arguably one of the worst receiving rooms in recent history, it might be time to consider previously unthinkable possibilities.
The Tyreek Hill trade and Marquez Valdes-Scantling‘s deal with the Kansas City Chiefs have shown us that most of the players left on the market are out of Green Bay’s price range. While the Packers may have previously been perceived as one of the last teams that would take a chance on a guy who stripped down and ran off the field last season, one thing that Green Bay and Antonio Brown have in common is that neither of them has many other options.
In four years under Brian Gutekunst, the Packers have been more willing to roll the dice. They signed Adrian Amos, Billy Turner, and the “Smith brothers” to massive four-year deals in 2019’s free-agency frenzy. Green Bay shamelessly drafted Aaron Rodgers‘ successor in the first round of 2020’s draft. And they have now traded away the best receiver in the NFL after long-term contract negotiations broke down.
The only options to recoup Adams’ 1,500-plus yards of production are cheaper veteran free agents, trades, and the draft. Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham are still on the market, but they would come with their own set of issues. Jones struggled to stay healthy and produce when he was on the field in his first and only season with the Tennessee Titans. Landry and his 4.77 40 time would be a questionable fit in an offense desperate for speed. And Beckham’s recovery from February’s ACL tear will keep him out until at least midseason.
Gutekunst has displayed an ability to use his scouting background to fill holes by going thrift shopping. Last year, he brought in De’Vondre Campbell (one-year, $2 million) and Rasul Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Both earned significant extensions this offseason.
Matt LaFleur admitted at the league meetings in Palm Beach on Tuesday that they need “some speed” in the receiver room, a “legit guy that can take the top off the coverage.” Over the Cap currently has the Packers at only $15 million in the green. With the rookie class set to gobble up half of that money, Antonio Brown is one of the only additions that would give Rodgers and LaFleur a legit receiver at a price they can afford.
Since the six consecutive 1,200-plus-yard receiving seasons that landed Brown among the league’s all-time greats, his erratic conduct has caused three teams to release him after the Pittsburgh Steelers traded him in 2019. Frostbite, a helmet protest, and a rift over fines kept him from ever playing a game for the then-Oakland Raiders. Tom Brady has been the only one to give him a chance since. He played one game for the New England Patriots in 2019 and followed Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year.
Although Brady has ostensibly held an unprecedented level of sway over personnel decisions in Tampa, the final straw was an on-field tantrum at Metlife Stadium where Brown removed his gear and left the premises mid-game. After the incident, public speculation suggested mental illness, perhaps caused or exacerbated by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), was responsible for Brown’s behavior.
Brown went on the “Full Send Podcast” to tell his side of the story. He said his anger stemmed from former Bucs head coach Bruce Arians attempting to force him to play on his injured ankle. Brown alleged that Arians told him to “get the f— out of here” after telling him he couldn’t play. He explained his reaction by saying, “at that point, bro, I’m taking your f—ing logos off.” Brown has also expressed a particular interest in returning to the NFL, most recently tweeting “Cleveland Antonio Browns” following the Deshaun Watson trade.
It’s easy to dismiss the idea of Brown signing with Green Bay because the Packers are not known to invite that type of controversy. But it’s challenging to come up with a better plan. It would be nice if Gutekunst could ship some of his premium draft capital to the Seattle Seahawks for D.K. Metcalf and/or Tyler Lockett. However, that feels as quixotic as Jordy Nelson coming out of retirement for one last ride with Rodgers.
A deal with A.B. would probably cost the Packers even less than the $6.25 million he got from the Bucs last year. If Green Bay were to follow that up with a pair of first-round receivers, we could be looking at an opening-day lineup that includes something to the effect of Brown, Allen Lazard, Jameson Williams, and Chris Olave.
You might ask: Why is it so crucial for Green Bay to go above and beyond when it comes to replacing Adams? They have a Super Bowl-contending roster everywhere else. Right tackle has to get figured out, but Gutekunst has put together a defense that held the San Francisco 49ers to six points in the playoffs.
On offense, they’ve got a strong line led by David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, an embarrassment of riches at the running back position, and the most talented quarterback of all time. The Packers brought in Rich Bisaccia and Pat O’Donnell to help turn special teams around. The wideout position is the only real liability, but it’s a pretty serious one. Figure that out, and they’re back to where they’ve been the past couple of years – having all the tools and just needing to get it done when it matters most.
So, Antonio Brown to the Packers. Will it happen? Probably not, but it absolutely could. As the draft approaches and teams get ready to dive head-first into the deepest wide receiver class in recent memory, Ed Wasielewski and the rest of A.B.’s team will start sweating. So will Gutekunst and LaFleur. And, despite his affinity for his “unvaccinated brother,” it’s hard to imagine Rodgers would be too stoked about a Lazard-led receiver room either. The more time passes, the more desperation will set in. Just keep an eye on it; that’s all I ask.