FOXBOROUGH -- A story that seemingly couldn’t get any stranger reached its shocking conclusion on Saturday, as disgruntled superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown requested and received his release from the Oakland Raiders, and hours later reportedly signed a deal that will bring him to New England.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Brown and the Patriots agreed to a 1-year deal worth up to $15 million, including a $9 million signing bonus. Brown will not be eligible to join the Patriots roster until Monday, meaning he was not eligible to play in Sunday night’s season opener against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (look to gloucestertimes.com/sports for coverage of Sunday night’s game).
Brown, 31, is a four-time First Team All-Pro selection and a seven-time Pro Bowler who has recorded five consecutive seasons with 100-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards. Last fall he made 104 catches for 1,297 yards and a league-high 15 receiving touchdowns, but Brown’s career has also been marked by incessant drama, with the star receiver now forcing his way out of two cities in under a year.
Brown has played his first nine years in the league with the Steelers, but things turned south by the end of last season as he requested a trade in hopes of receiving a new contract with more guaranteed money. The strategy worked, as the Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a third and fifth-round draft pick, and Brown subsequently signed a three-year, $50.1 million contract that included $30.1 million in guaranteed money.
But the change of scenery didn’t end the drama, as Brown reported to training camp in Oakland with severe frostbite on his feet following a cryotherapy mishap, and the story only got stranger from there.
For much of training camp, Brown refused to play because NFL rules prohibited him from wearing the helmet he had worn throughout his professional career. Since his old helmet no longer conformed to league safety standards, he had to switch to a new helmet in order to play, a change he vehemently opposed.
Once he lost his grievance and exhausted all options, he found an acceptable new helmet and that seemed to be that. Until last week when Brown posted a disciplinary letter he had received from the team to Instagram, leading to a confrontation with team general manager Mike Mayock.
Brown was threatened with suspension before apologizing, and all signs pointed to him suiting up to make his Oakland Raiders debut on Monday night. Until early Saturday morning when Brown posted a controversial video to YouTube featuring a recorded phone call with Raiders coach Jon Gruden, and then he followed that up with an Instagram post demanding his release from Oakland.
The team obliged, and within hours Brown reportedly landed on his feet with the defending Super Bowl champions.
Brown is the latest addition to a wide receiver group that now appears to rank among the best in the league. Brown will join Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers alongside Tom Brady, and barring any additional twists, he would become one of the most talented receivers the 42-year-old quarterback has ever had.