By Jordan Kendall, Asst. Sports Editor
In one of the most shocking and memorable days in recent memory, the Oakland Raiders released wide receiver Antonio Brown after a buildup of incidents concerning him. Hours later, the New England Patriots signed him to a one-year deal. While it didn’t shock fans the Raiders released Brown, it comes as a surprise for him to get signed so quickly despite his recent issues, let alone by New England. Now that he’s a Patriot, it will be interesting to see what his role becomes and if he can succeed. There are two reasons why he can succeed and one reason this will be a bust for all involved.
Brown will succeed because the Patriots have taken chances on players with off the field concerns and players with unique personalities before, and they have turned them around into key contributors. Wide receiver Josh Gordon has battled marijuana use for years, yet the Patriots traded for him last season. It appears as if he has moved on and last season he had 720 receiving yards in 11 games with the Pats.
Cornerback Aqib Talib was charged with aggravated assault, however, the charge was dropped. He played 13 games for New England in 2013 helping them reach the AFC Championship.
Running back Corey Dillon was arrested for domestic violence in 2000, his case was also dropped. He rushed for 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2004 helping them win a Super Bowl. They have also signed players who were selfish and more about themselves than the team.
Names such as wide receivers Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco were both brought in, Moss set a record with 23 touchdowns in 2007 while Ochocinco barely contributed in 2011. The Patriots are a first-class organization and could provide Brown the resources to get his life together and focus on football.
Brown will also succeed since the Patriots have not had a number one receiver like him in over ten years. While wide receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman have been great players, they haven’t come close to what Brown has done. The only player at Brown’s level they have had is tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England has had mostly average or below average receivers who quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick turn into their best possible version. Players such as wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were just some of the receivers Brady has had to work with recently.
While Brown is certainly a number one receiver, having other players around him will likely help New England be an even better offense than in recent years. Edelman and Gordon both get significant targets every game and will force the defense to pick and choose who they want to focus on. If they focus on Brown, Edelman and Gordon can win in one-on-one matchups and Brady is accurate enough to find them.
Not only do the Patriots have depth at wide receivers, but they also have one of the best running back committees in football. Running backs Sony Michel, James White and Damien Harris all look to be contributors and could lead one of the best rushing offenses in football. Having the pressure off him as he did in Pittsburgh will certainly help Brown and could help him finally win his first Super Bowl.
There’s also a chance this goes poorly for both sides. Brown’s behavior in recent weeks is concerning, from battling the NFL over his helmet to arguing with his head coach and general manager. Brown posted a YouTube video attempting to explain his side of the situation yet failed to deliver a message of sympathy. Brown posted on Instagram asking to be released and got his wish.
These past few weeks have been unlike anything in recent memory. It’s gotten to the point where many fans are concerned about his mental health and believe he might need some help. If there’s something wrong with him, he needs to immediately step away from football and get his life together. He was recently accused of sexual assault by his former trainer. Brittney Taylor claims that Brown sexually assaulted her multiple times from 2017-2018 and sent emails that appear to describe his actions towards her. Brown has since denied this claiming the sexual relations were consensual.
Many believe his antics were intentional to get out of Oakland, if it is, he should immediately lose all respect. I find this hard to believe, especially to go to this extent to do so. If Brown truly did not want to play for Oakland, why not refuse to play for them initially? If it stems from something such as CTE, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. If this behavior continues with New England, he will immediately be released, and it could signal the end of his career.
I want to see AB be a contributor in New England, but more importantly, want to ensure his mental health is where it needs to be. It’s worrisome to think he might be suffering from something and isn’t doing anything to help it. If he’s the same player he was in Pittsburgh the Patriots are even more likely to win another ring. If he’s not the same person however, there’s no telling what the consequences could be for all involved.