Controversial free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown has signed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one year after being released by two franchises in a matter of weeks. Brown is currently serving an eight-match suspension for improper conduct and so will not be available to play for the Bucs until their week nine matchup against NFC South rivals the New Orleans Saints.
Signing on a one year-deal, Brown joins an already elite tier wide receiving corps in Tampa consisting of Pro Bowl caliber playmakers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as well as 23-year-old Scotty Miller, who has already developed impressive chemistry with Tom Brady and amassed the most yards of any Bucs wideout so far this year. “This is something Jason (Licht) and I have been talking about every couple weeks, ever since the injuries to our other guys,” said Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians on the signing. “When the time was right, we would see if we can pull the trigger and fit him into what we wanted to get done. And we’ll see. If Antonio does what I think he’s going to do, he’s going to be fine.”
So far this season, like most of the NFL, the Bucs have struggled with injuries and have had to rely on young and fringe players. Star wide receiver duo have barely been on the field together and when they have it has never been at full fitness. Brown offers the Bucs a third elite option and if all three can get on the field at the same time it will be daunting for any NFL defense.
“It’s an insurance policy,” said Arians. “When we don’t have Mike and we don’t have Chris, why not have another Pro Bowl caliber player that’s available and fits everything we need? So why not? We have good players, and you can’t have enough of them. In Chicago, we had one of our top guys out there on one leg. Why not have another one?” “He looks fantastic,” Arians said Wednesday, via team transcript. “I think we had really good conversations today, he and I. He was in the meetings and everything and he’s working with Anthony Piroli and the strength staff. He looks in great shape and ready to go next week.”
“It went really well, and he and I had a good conversation this morning,” Arians said. “He’ll be ready to go next week and in good shape.” “He wants to play. If you want to play, you’ve got to do it. In our conversation today, it’s, ‘Go to football practice, go to work, come home and go back to work.’ He’s all in. I don’t think we’ll have any problems with those things.” Despite barely featuring this season and last, Brown has the most touchdown catches in the league since 2014 and boasts a whole host of pedigree. During his career, Brown has played in 131 games and caught 841 passes for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns. Since 2010, the only players with more touchdown receptions than Brown are tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, who is also with the Bucs.
“I had a lot of people support me over the years, realizing that I was far from where I needed to be and they would guide me and provide me with the help that I needed as a player to reach my potential,” Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said last Wednesday. “I think that’s — how you impact people, and we talk about that a lot as professional athletes — how you impact people on the field is one thing, how you impact people off the field is another. So whether that’s teammates that you can impact or people in the community that you can impact, I think all those things are important.
Brown joins a team widely regarded as in the Super Bowl hunt and with arguably the most complete team in the NFL. The Bucs currently sit atop the NFC South with a record of 5-2 and a healthy blend of young talent and experience. Time will tell if the addition of Brown will put the cherry on an already tasty looking cake or spoil the dish but for now, Bucs fans will be struggling to contain their excitement.
“You just try your best every day, realizing that a lot of people weren’t born with the same advantages that I’ve had growing up, they weren’t born with the same background or support systems that I had. I think that when you recognize that and bring that to relationships, all’s you can do is the best you can do,” Brady said.
“For me, I think that’s something I really enjoy still about playing football, is that I probably have more perspective than just about every player in the league right now, based on my years of experience and what I’ve seen. I want to see other guys succeed. And I think a lot of joy in my experience comes from seeing other people be their best and seeing people succeed in ways that can set their family up. I think that’s a really important aspect of football for me.”