The Patriots are inevitable. Antonio Brown was always going to New England, the second he was released, or seemed to know it or at the very least suggested it. So it wasn't a shock when Brown, freshly cut by the Raiders, within hours of his departure from Oakland.
Conspiracy theories abound as a result of Brown's move and a Sunday morning report that the Patriots tried to trade for Brown in March but were rebuffed by the Steelers should only add fuel to that tinfoil hat fire.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots did indeed try to trade for the mercurial wide receiver last March when the Steelers were shopping him. But the Steelers weren't willing to give Brown to the Patriots, their primary obstacle in the AFC. No one should be surprised by that -- Brown is a legitimate top-tier talent at wide receiver and adding him to New England would make a very dangerous team even more dangerous.
Straight up, the Steelers did not "want to trade him to a rival."
According to a report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the Patriots offered a first-round pick to the Steelers for Brown back in March and the Steelers declined to trade him there. So it was better than, a third- and a fifth-round pick in 2020.
The Patriots were on the list of teams -- along with the Ravens, Browns and Bengals -- who were essentially blacklisted by the Steelers when it came to a possible Brown trade. The first three teams are AFC North rivals and the Patriots are the biggest playoff road block for the Steelers on an annual basis.
It probably isn't shocking the Pats and Bill Belichick wanted Brown, a Hall of Fame talent, on their roster. But now we can safely confirm that they have wanted him -- and attempted to get him -- for several months now.
Such information will only serve to increase the enthusiasm for those out there who believe Belichick orchestrated the entire offseason saga involving Brown, everything from his trade to Oakland to his behavior to his release and eventual signing in New England. To be clear: I am not saying that happened, but there are definitely people who believe Belichick is playing the role of Geppetto and manipulating the entire NFL.
Certainly there's a case to be made that Brown, after his tearful apology to his Raiders teammates on Friday, might have found out the Patriots were interested and cranked up the intensity with which he was treating his current employer.
Indeed, if you want to really get wild, take a peak at this report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN. According to Mort, Brown actually went out and hired social media consultants to help expedite his release from the Raiders. Yes, he hired people to get himself fired. And it worked!
Think about all of this. Brown was traded to the Raiders, demanded a massive new contract, went through-- freezing his feet in a cryotherapy chamber in France, going through multiple grievance situations involving his old helmet, threatening to retire, getting fined and posting the letter on social media, getting in a fight with his GM on the field at training camp over said posting of said letter and then eventually releasing a hype video of him talking with his coach where he may or may not have illegally wiretapped their conversation -- and in the end was actively working to try and get his release from the team that traded for him and gave him a massive new contract.
Whew. I mean, there's no way this was a massively engineered conspiracy theory dating back to March, right? RIGHT??? Are we all sleepwalking in a CIA thriller, some Jack Ryan type NFL dreamworld. Maybe we're all in some Truman Show type of situation? This sounds crazy and paranoid, but there's plenty of reason to be crazy and paranoid.
One more thing worth noting from Mortensen: Drew Rosenhaus said there was "a robust market" and Mortensen reports that is true. The Seahawks and Browns were both on the list of teams who would consider signing Brown when he became a free agent, but it was basically a done deal for him to go to the Patriots.
"What they all found out is this was a fait acompli on Saturday morning," Mortensen added.
In other words, Brown was always going to the Patriots and everyone knew it. That should make it extremely interesting when it comes to how the Raiders -- and perhaps even the Steelers -- handle things moving forward with respect to inquiries made to the league office.