Antonio Brown seeking trade from Steelers: Ranking the 10 best landing spots for star receiver

After a 2018 season that included plenty of drama, it appears that Antonio Brown has finally had enough with the Steelers

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported just after the end of the regular season that Brown has requested to be traded from the team. And on Tuesday, Brown tweeted a goodbye to "SteelerNation," saying it was "time to move on and forward."

According to La Canfora, a big reason Brown wants to leave is because he's having issues with coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The tension between Brown and Roethlisberger boiled over in Week 17 when the two players got into a heated dispute before a practice. The dispute was so serious that it caused Brown to skip practice for the rest of the week and to sit out the team's season finale against the Bengals. Although Roethlisberger downplayed the incident, he did admit that Brown won't return his calls or texts

Now, does of all this mean that Brown is going to be traded? Not necessarily. 

The biggest obstacle standing between the Steelers and a potential Brown trade is his contract. If the Brown were to be sent to another team, the Steelers would have to eat $21.1 million in dead cap space for 2019. Of course, it's starting to look like that substantial cap hit isn't going to be enough to keep a trade from happening. Not only has Steelers owner Art Rooney already stated that it would be "hard to envision" Brown playing for the team next season, but La Canfora has reported that team plans to start formal trade talks at the NFL Combine

La Canfora has also reported that the Steelers would ideally like to trade Brown to an NFC team, which is why we've gone NFC heavy at the top of our list below. With that in mind, let's check out the top-10 landing spots for Brown. 

Antonio Brown landing spots

1. 49ers

The 49ers receiving corps could definitely use a boost and Brown would provide that instantly. In 2018, the 49ers leading receiver wasn't even a receiver, it was tight end George Kittle, who set an NFL record for tight ends with 1,377 yards. (The 49ers leading wide receiver was Kendrick Bourne, who finished the year with just 487 yards). Kittle also caught 88 passes and it appears that he would have no problem sharing some of that load with Brown, and we know that because he's already trying to recruit the Steelers receiver to San Francisco.  

As for Brown, he definitely seemed intrigued by the idea. Not only did he respond to Kittle's tweet, but he also "liked" a picture that someone posted of him photoshopped into a 49ers uniform. 

Brown put up huge numbers in 2018 and he could potentially put up even bigger numbers in 2019 playing in an offense designed by 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. With Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the ball, there's no reason to think that Brown couldn't approach or surpass his biggest seasons with the Steelers. The upside for Pittsburgh in this trade is that it would get Brown out of the AFC and send him across the country. 

2. Cardinals

With Larry Fitzgerald's storied career nearing its end, the Cardinals are going to be in dire need of a new No. 1 receiver soon, which would make Brown a perfect option in Arizona. Although Fitzgerald put up impressive numbers in 2018, Josh Rosen didn't really have anyone else to throw the ball to. To put Fitzgerald's production in perspective: He caught six touchdown passes in 2018 while the rest of the team combined for just nine. Add Brown to the mix as a long-term pairing with Christian Kirk, and the offense will be well-positioned to handle the eventual loss of Fitzgerald. Like the 49ers, the Cardinals also have a player who's trying to recruit Brown and that player is Patrick Peterson. 

Kittle and Peterson aren't just rivals on the field, it looks like they're now also rivals on the recruiting circuit for Brown's services. 

3. Raiders

Jon Gruden has basically spent the past 12 months collecting first-round picks and this might be the perfect spot to use one. With three first-rounders in the 2019 draft, Gruden could call up the Steelers and offer one for Brown. The Raiders are also in serious need of a wide receiver after trading Amari Cooper to the Cowboys in October. It would almost be fitting if the Raiders used the first-rounder acquired in the Cooper deal to trade for Brown. 

4. Packers

One of Aaron Rodgers' biggest problems in Green Bay is that his receivers generally have some serious issues getting open. If the Packers were to trade for Brown, that would likely solve a lot of those problems. With Brown and Davante Adams on the team, Rodgers would have no excuse to have a bad season in 2019. The thing that makes the Packers an intriguing option is that they actually have two first-round picks this year, which means they could offer one to the Steelers in exchange for Brown. 

5. Dolphins 

Brown landing in Miami would actually make a lot of sense. For one, he already lives there so he probably wouldn't have any issue with a trade sending him to South Beach. Also, he would probably like the fact that he would instantly become the best receiver on the Dolphins' roster. Brown finished the 2018 season with 1,297 receiving yards, which was more than the Dolphins' top two receivers combined (Danny Amendola led the team with 575 yards, followed by Kenny Stills, who ended the season with 553 yards). Of course, the Dolphins don't really have a quarterback right now, so that could potentially throw a wrench in things. It's also possible the Dolphins wouldn't want to put their first-year coach through all the drama that a player like Brown could potentially bring. New coach Brian Flores came is coming from New England and it's very possible Brown wouldn't be on board with the South Beach version of the "Patriot Way." 

6. Redskins

The Redskins seem to love drama so Antonio Brown would be a perfect fit in Washington. Not to mention, they could also use a star receiver. In 2018, no receiver on the Redskins roster even topped 560 yards. Also, Brown caught 15 touchdown passes this season, which was just one less than the Redskins caught as a team. The biggest issue with the Redskins is probably the fact that they don't know who their quarterback is going to be next season. 

7. Jets

The Jets are reportedly going to be a strong suitor for Le'Veon Bell this offseason, so at this point, they should just go all-in and turn into the Steelers of the AFC East by adding Brown. According to Over the Cap, the Jets are going to have nearly $100 million in free cap space in 2019, which means they could easily afford to pay Brown. The Jets already have Robbie Anderson, which means Sam Darnold would have several serious weapons going into 2019 if his team was to make a deal with the Steelers for Brown. 

8. Colts

With more salary cap space than any other team this offseason, the Colts have the cap room to take on Antonio Brown's contract, which makes them a perfect financial fit. Brown would also likely thrive in Frank Reich's offense with Andrew Luck throwing him passes. Despite Brown appearing to be a natural fit in Indy, the Colts aren't ranked higher on this list because general manager Chris Ballard has quietly hinted all offseason that he's not going to add anyone who might bring drama to the Colts locker room and if we know one thing about Brown, it's that he brings drama everywhere he goes. 

Wild Cards

9. Patriots 
10. Browns

Whenever you make a list of potential landing spots for a star player, you have to include the Patriots, and that's because they've proven that they'll trade for anyone if the price is right. With Rob Gronkowski looking slower by the day, Tom Brady is running out of targets in New England, which is why a trade here might make sense. Adding Brown for 2019 would potentially be the perfect spark for a Patriots offense that struggled at times in 2018. The reason the Patriots and Browns are both listed as wild cards is because, although both teams might need him, it's hard to see a deal happening. You have to think that the Steelers would rather fold their franchise before trading Brown to the Patriots or to a division rival. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories