In short, yes and no.
Since the end of the 2018 regular season, it has been widely believed that Pittsburgh was planning to trade their star wide receiver. Their internal drama had created too much conflict, and both sides appeared to be at an impasse. With Antonio Brown officially requesting a trade from the Steelers this week, the bidding process can finally begin.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Patriots will be closely monitoring the situation. As Evan Silva of Rotoworld points out, there are a number of factors about this situation that fit the New England model:
– Brown would fill a need at receiver
– He has a proven work ethic despite other issues
– One of the best route runners in the league
– The Patriots have dealt with players with similar attitude problems in the past
– New England has traded for receivers on many occasions (Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Randy Moss, Josh Gordon, etc.)
– Brown would help maximize Tom Brady’s championship window
The only thing that may give New England pause is Brown’s high cap hit. Over the next three seasons of his contract, he has a cap hit of $22.1 million, 18.3 million, and $19.5 million. New England is not necessarily strapped for cash. They have $18 million in cap space right now and will clear up more when the new league year starts. In addition, Brady could restructure his contract again to free up cap space to add Brown. However, taking on Brown’s contract could prevent the team from resigning any of their current free agents, including Trent Brown, Trey Flowers, and their corps of receivers. They would hesitate to pull the trigger on the Steelers receiver if they are fully committed to resigning some of those players.
In addition to all of that, the Patriots are in a strong position to make a trade. New England has four picks in the first three rounds. This could be enticing for a Pittsburgh team looking to add some instant playmakers.
However, despite all of these factors leaning in the Patriots favor, there’s not a chance that Antonio Brown is a Patriot next season. As Jason La Canfora pointed out on Twitter, the Steelers will absolutely not send Brown to New England. The Patriots are dangerous enough as it is. If Pittsburgh wants a shot at a title, helping out the best team in the AFC is not their best option. That would only force them to suffer more abuse at the hands of the Patriots. Pittsburgh will very likely send Brown somewhere outside the AFC North that is not New England.
Regardless, New England will certainly be keeping a close eye on any negotiations revolving Brown.