It's been 393 days since Antonio Brown was last on an NFL roster. But on Friday night, it appeared the former All-Pro receiver's long wait was on the verge of ending when it was reported that Brown and the Buccaneers had agreed on a one-year contract.
The Buccaneers, at the reported urging of quarterback Tom Brady, are adding a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro receiver to an offense that already includes two future Hall of Famers in Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Tampa Bay's offense also includes three-time Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans, 2019 Pro Bowl receiver Chris Godwin, and running backs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy. With Brown's addition, the Buccaneers offense will flaunt a group of skill position players that includes 36 combined Pro Bowl selections.
Here's a projection of what the Buccaneers' offensive depth chart will look like for Week 9, when Brown is expected to make his 2020 debut.
|QB||Tom Brady||Blaine Gabbert||Ryan Griffin|| |
|RB||Ronald Jones II||Leonard Fournette||LeSean McCoy||Ke'Shawn Vaughn|
|WR||Mike Evans||Scotty Miller|| || |
|WR||Chris Godwin||Tyler Johnson|| || |
|WR||Antonio Brown|| || || |
|TE||Rob Gronkowski||Cameron Brate||Tanner Hudson|| |
|LT||Donovan Smith||Josh Wells|| || |
|LG||Ali Marpet||Aaron Stinnie|| || |
|C||Ryan Jensen||A.Q. Shipley|| || |
|RG||Alex Cappa|| || || |
|RT||Tristan Wirfs||Joe Haeg|| || |
While Brown may feature in two-wide sets at some point, the safe bet is that he will play behind either Godwin (who has missed three games with an injury) and Evans in those looks against the Saints. Brown will look to complement Evans (23 catches, 281 yards, six touchdowns), Scott Miller (16 catches, 256 yards) and Gronkowski, who caught his first touchdown as a Buccaneer during Tampa Bay's 38-10 romp of Green Bay last Sunday. The addition of Brown should also help create more space for rookie Tyler Johnson, a fifth-round pick who caught his first career touchdown during Sunday's win over Green Bay.
Brown will be yet another option for Brady, who after a slow start in Tampa Bay has thrown 11 touchdowns against just one interception over the past three games. One can assume that Brown's presence will also create more running lanes for Fournette and Jones, who have combined to rush for 595 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
The Pick Six Podcast crew fired up the sirens to record an emergency episode reacting to the Antonio Brown news. Give it a listen below and subscribe for great NFL content in your feed daily.
The Buccaneers already possessed one of the league's top offenses. Heading into Sunday's game against the Raiders, the Buccaneers were eighth in the league in scoring (averaging 29.5 points per game), largely due to their success in the red zone, where they are fourth in the NFL in efficiency. The addition of Brown should help them improve upon their No. 18 ranking in third down efficiency. Brown's presence should also boost a Tampa Bay passing attack that is currently 17th in the league in yards gained.
While there are several tangible gains to adding a player of his caliber, what the team could gain from Brown as far as intangibles are concerned could vary greatly. While his workout regiment, which at one point was considered among the best in football, could serve as a welcomed example to his younger teammates, Brown's emotional outbursts can also create unnecessary distractions while challenging the inner fabric of a team. Maybe Brown, now 32, has learned to channel those outbursts during his time away from football. Maybe he is more motivated than ever to win the championship that eluded him during the first decade of his career. Maybe he is truly ready to sacrifice individual accolades for team success.
Whatever the reason, Brown, after publicly contemplating retirement several times over the past year, will attempt to resume his career once his suspension is over. Assuming that most of his physical skills are still intact, Brown's presence should be enough to -- at least -- help propel the Buccaneers to their first playoff appearance since 2008. If Brown if somehow able to return to his 2018 self, Tampa fans could possibly start dreaming of a Super Bowl featuring the hometown team.