The reflex, as always, is this: Go get him!
The Jets are an awful team in need of as much talent as they can muster. Antonio Brown is an extraordinary talent looking for a new address. The Jets have banked their future on the right arm of a young quarterback. Brown is in the business of making quarterbacks look good, has already helped one punch his ticket to Canton.
There are elements of this that would point to a perfect marriage.
But the Jets need to look away.
Brown reportedly asked the Steelers for a trade Tuesday, all but suing for divorce from the team for which he became one of the NFL’s signature stars. To emphasize the point, he posted a farewell to Pittsburgh’s football fans on Twitter.
“Thank you SteelerNation for a big 9 years …time to move on and forward.” He added a peace sign, a video and a hashtag: “#NewDemands”
The Steelers, of course still hold most of the leverage here because Brown is signed for three more years at roughly $36.5 million (none of it guaranteed). And unlike the other disgruntled Steeler who is likely to be in the Jets’ offseason crosshairs — running back Le’Veon Bell — it will cost more than a giant hunk of cash to bring Brown to New York. And the fact is the Jets are lean on assets to begin with — they don’t have a second-round pick this year — and would be wise to hold on to as many of those assets as they can at this stage of their development.
There are other concerns, too. Brown will turn 31 just before training camp (Bell, by comparison, turns 27 this week) and has nine years of wear on his tires (though four of those years he was first-team All-Pro and seven times he was named to the Pro Bowl).
And Brown has been a headache for the Steelers regularly throughout his career, and lately those incidents have multiplied: He no-showed a reckless driving charge; he is under investigation for a possible domestic incident with the mother of his child; and he blew off a walk-through the day before the Steelers’ season-ending game with the Bengals, then left the game at halftime when the Steelers responded by benching him — with the Steelers still very much in the playoff hunt. There were also reports of a profound disintegration in his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger.
All of these things are red flags snapping in the wind, and they certainly call to mind how destructive and disruptive it was in a prior Jets era when they imported Santonio Holmes (also, by coincidence, an ex-Steeler) to provide Mark Sanchez more weaponry, and it wound up being an abject calamity across parts of four years. Every move the Jets make has to come back to two things:
Antonio Brown-Roethlisberger had 'love-hate relationship' that finally broke
Antonio Brown’s potential exit from the Steelers, which more and…
1) How does it impact Sam Darnold? and 2) How does it help improve a team-wise culture of failure that has strangled the franchise for years?
If Brown can’t get along with a future Hall of Fame quarterback, how can you predict how he’ll be around a neophyte? And if Brown can’t be professional enough to show up for work one day, and stay at work the next, for the Steelers ….
Yes, Brown is an extraordinary talent and he will be a fine finishing piece for some contending team. The Jets aren’t there yet, aren’t close to being there yet. The temptation must surely be there right now. It’ll pass. So should they.