The Buccaneers in 2020 made a big move in the middle of the season to add Antonio Brown. Is Brown still worth it to keep?
Antonio Brown is obviously an extremely talented receiver and Tom Brady likes him for some reason incomprehensible to mere mortals, but that isn’t the only reason he was signed by the Bucs.
Chris Godwin in the first half of the season was in and out with various injuries and while Mike Evans played every game, he was at maybe half speed with a nagging hamstring injury. Tyler Johnson was a rookie, Justin Watson was halfway in the doghouse, Gronk was straight out of retirement, and O.J. Howard was out for the season with an Achilles injury.
So what does that leave you with? A very shaky two TE set, and their number one receiver as second-year Scotty Miller. He’s a great burner and a very dangerous asset to the team, but he’s the cherry on top, not the cake. Brown was a desperate move to shore up a suddenly below-average receiving room. Once the team was healthy minus Howard, it seemed pretty obvious that the Bucs offense functioned as well or better when Brown was on the sideline as when he was on the field.
Now, a lot of this probably had to do with him being thrown onto the team midway through the season. Even Brown’s touchdown in the Super Bowl he ran the wrong route, and Brady luckily figured that out and threw a strike, despite the mistake. If Brown gets a second year in the system, he’ll likely make a big leap forwards. The question is, is it worth the risks?
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Brown was out of the league, and his only option to save any semblance of a career was to make it through the second half of the season without causing an issue. It takes a lot of faith to believe that he can make it another entire season without something coming back to bite him. He still has multiple legal issues, and he has a decade of history causing locker-room shenanigans.
With Howard back, the Bucs will likely gravitate back to the Bruce Arians base two TE formations. Unless Brown is taking Godwin or Evan’s spot, that will eat into his potential snap count. While Miller isn’t close to the level of Brown, he also takes the top off the defense, which helps the Bucs immensely. Tyler Johnson also showed some solid growth and talent considering he was a rookie with little offseason to prepare.
This leaves Antonio Brown in an awkward position. IF no legal issue takes him out for the season. IF he takes a very team-friendly, well below market deal. IF he stays with Brady and causes no locker-room issues. IF he takes an expected step forward in the offense. IF he doesn’t see any age related decline, then he will definitely make the team better and be great insurance for injury. That may be too many if’s for a team loading up to try and defend a Superbowl title.