Antonio Brown trade rumors: Ranking eight best landing spots, plus four teams with no chance for Steelers star

After a 2018 season that included plenty of drama, it appears that Antonio Brown and the Steelers have finally had enough of each other. 

Brown met with team owner Art Rooney on Tuesday and the two decided that it would be best for both parties to go their separate ways. This means that Brown is officially on the trading block more than six weeks after originally requesting to be traded. 

So how did we get to this point? Let's quickly review all the drama that's happened in Pittsburgh since the end of the regular season. 

Just after the end of the 2018 season, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that Brown requested to be traded from the team. 

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

If the Steelers were hoping to repair the relationship during the offseason, that definitely didn't happen. As a a matter of fact, things only seemed to get worse. It there were any Steelers fans out there hoping that Brown might stay in Pittsburgh, they likely lost all hope on Feb. 12 when Brown tweeted a goodbye to "SteelerNation," saying it was "time to move on and forward."

The Steelers are now officially fielding phone calls for Brown, and according to general manager Kevin Colbert, three teams have already called with interest in trading for the Pro Bowl wide receiver. 

La Canfora has reported that team plans to start formal trade talks at the NFL combine, which means things are going to start getting serious next week. The combine kicks off on Feb. 26 and runs through March 4. 

So where will Brown end up? Glad you asked. 

We've ranked eight potential landing spots below and four spots where he almost certainly won't end up. Also, La Canfora has 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-eight landing spots for Brown. 

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. 

Four teams that won't be landing Antonio Brown

Patriots
Browns
Bengals
Ravens

Although the Steelers are open for business when it comes to trading Brown, they almost certainly won't be taking phone calls from these four teams. According to La Canfora, the Steelers don't want to deal Brown to the Patriots or any team in the AFC North. Obviously, this thinking makes a lot of sense. If you're the Steelers, the last thing you want to do is make the best team in your conference (the Patriots) even better. As for the rest of the AFC North, the Steelers would be crazy to send Brown to any of these three teams, because that would mean that they would have to face him twice a year. The last thing the Steelers need is to lose a future division title because they lost two games to the Ravens after Brown torched them in both games. 

With these four teams eliminated, that means there are 27 other teams that could end up calling the Steelers about a possible Brown trade.  

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