For two glorious hours on Thursday night, Antonio Brown was on the Buffalo Bills. Not really -- there was an erroneous NFL Network report about Brown's destination in a trade -- but Twitter treated it like he was heading to Siberia and had a big old time with it.
The Bills killed the trade on Friday morning officially, but it wasn't because they didn't like the idea of a trade happening. The reason the trade died? Because Brown refused to go to Buffalo, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported Friday morning.
Brown was unwilling to go to Buffalo, period. Wasnt even a matter of money at that point. So the deal fell through. Steelers and Bills had stopped talking and both sides had moved on. Market for Brown is pretty bleak right now— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 8, 2019
This has been reported in and around the Pittsburgh and the Buffalo area as well. Pittsburgh acquiesced to Brown's trade demands from the end of the season, went through the whole back and forth in terms of his public behavior and social media toddler fest and ultimately decided to send Brown to the least desirable place in football.
Buffalo is a proud city with a great football history. I think the Bills are doing a decent job rebuilding right now. But it's a bad, bad landing spot for a 31-year-old diva wide receiver who wants to pad his Hall of Fame resume and pile up individual stats. The offensive line is bad and even with a young, potential franchise quarterback in Josh Allen, Brown would be battling accuracy issues in terms of passes thrown his way.
The Bills were going to need to work out a new deal for Brown, who apparently also wants a new contract. Who knows if Buffalo was willing to give him that money, but presumably they'd need to have talks with agent Drew Rosenhaus before pulling off a deal, which fits nicely with the theory Ross Tucker threw out on Twitter.
My no inside info "take" on AB trade to Bills is the teams had tentatively agreed on trade compensation but it got leaked before Buffalo could talk $ with Rosenhaus who blew it up knowing AB wouldn't want to go there.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) March 8, 2019
Blowing up a potential trade in this manner doesn't exactly make life easier for the Steelers. They were already dealing with a relative lack of offers out there for Brown, thanks to a surprisingly soft market for the wide receiver.
Speaking on CBS Sports HQ on Monday morning, La Canfora said he believes this is playing out like the Le'Veon Bell situation from last year and that internally, the Steelers are (understandably) discouraged about what to do with Brown, who apparently has a pretty short list of possible landing spots.
"The Steelers want to make a football trade and they want to get the best deal they can get for this guy," La Canfora said. "At this point, they're not going to give that player away. They understand, unfortunately from their standpoint, the more Antonio has said and done, the worse the situation has gotten for them in terms of their ability to recoup what they would like for him or to get teams engaged. If anything, less teams have been engaged.
"So right now in that building the sense is pretty bleak. And they're wondering, does this guy even really want to be traded. They're kind of having flashbacks to Le'Veon Bell. If you recall Bell last season, when he's not reporting to them, won't sign the franchise tender, they want to trade him and he's telling teams I don't want to go anywhere. And they're like wait you don't want to take our money and these other teams are going to trade for you ... we don't get it.
"It's happening again -- you want out, and we're trying to get you out and you're making it impossible for us to get you out."
So where could Brown go? It's hard to say, honestly. The Steelers are not dealing him inside the division. They are not sending him to the Patriots or the Chiefs (and probably not to the Chargers or Colts). They won't block their playoff success and aspirations because Brown wants to land in the best possible situation. Maybe the Raiders make sense, as they're not a huge AFC threat, have a decent quarterback and badly need wideout help. The Dolphins could qualify; they aren't a playoff threat and don't have a great QB situation, but it would be easy to imagine AB being just fine playing in South Florida.
There is also a bit of a Hail Mary here that Brown could end up staying in Pittsburgh. Maybe Hail Mary is even the wrong term -- GM Kevin Colbert, in speaking with NFL Network during the combine, indicated he would be OK with the Steelers keeping Brown, telling Aditi Kinkhabwala he could imagine Ben Roethlisberger and Brown making up and reuniting for 2019.
"I think Ben's actually been quoted along those lines [of forgiving Brown]," Colbert said. "I've seen those two work together and do amazing things. I've seen them disagree. I've seen them throughout a play, throughout a game maybe not agree on what just happened. But in the end they'll end up hugging. I know this has happened before. Players go from play to play, from week to week from season to season and they change. And they sit back and appreciate where things could be.
"So I think everybody looks at what their best interests is in the long run. Can this work at some point? We'll see. Again, we're agreeable to looking at a trade and if it benefits us, great. If it benefits both of us, great. We mean no harm to Antonio Brown, because he's been a fantastic player for us. He'll be a fantastic player wherever he is in '19, either with us or somebody else. If it can benefit everybody, great, but it's going to have to benefit us or it's not going to happen."
This would be even crazier than Brown being traded somewhere like Buffalo. But it might be realistic. There are only four possible outcomes for this current situation. One, Brown is traded. Two, Brown is cut by the Steelers. Three, he isn't traded/cut and doesn't play. And four, he isn't traded/cut and just plays for the Steelers.
If one happens, it's not longer a problem for the Steelers (Brown could refuse to play with his new team if they don't re-work his deal, but that's outside the purview of this particular story and another issue for another day). Two isn't happening. Brown might want it to, but the Steelers aren't letting him go for nothing in return. Three would mean Brown sacrifices his salary next year by sitting out, which also feels unlikely.
Scenario number four -- in which Brown ends up coming back and playing for the Steelers on his current contract -- might somehow be trending to become the most likely scenario based on where the two parties stand and based on where Brown sits with respect to other NFL teams now that he's managed to torpedo his own trade value with a laundry list of shenanigans.
The Steelers make "The Bacheloetter" look tame.