Once again, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis prove how smart they are. This time, they show their intelligence by staying away from the dysfunctional drama that surrounds Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Despite rumors to the contrary, there is nothing to indicate that the Saints were ever a serious trade candidate for the talented but self-absorbed wideout.
Antonio Brown is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, and has been for a prolonged period. A 6th round pick by the Steelers out of Central Michigan in the 2010 draft, Brown has had six straight seasons of at least 100 receptions and over 1,200 yards receiving. He threatens opposing defenses at every level, and has remained productive despite constant double and even triple team coverages designed to stop him. The nine year veteran has 837 receptions for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns throughout a career that has earned him seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro berths. He has seven 1,000 yard seasons to his credit, and four years of at least 10 touchdown receptions, including a career high 15 scores in 2018. A fallout with Steelers management and some teammates has led to both parties seeking a deal, where Pittsburgh is reportedly looking for a 1st round draft pick. As far as statistical output and abilities, that asking price may be worth consideration. The Dallas Cowboys traded a 1st round pick to the Oakland Raiders last season for Amari Cooper. Brandin Cooks has fetched a first round return in back to back seasons; first when going from the Saints to the New England Patriots after the 2016 season, then from the Patriots to the Los Angeles Rams prior to last year. Brown is a better receiver than either Cooks or Cooper, a proven commodity that strikes fear into cornerbacks and defensive coordinators throughout the league. There is another difference between he and these previously named wideouts though, and it's one that should prevent any sane thinking team from making a move to get this veteran playmaker.
Antonio Brown will turn 31 years old this July, but has the maturity level of a petulant child, and even that is insulting to petulant children everywhere. His behavior has surpassed that of even the most hard core of immature diva wideouts, morphing into a cancerous presence in his own locker room. The elementary school type of feud between Brown and his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger notwithstanding, this selfish wide receiver has still sent out enough character red flags in recent seasons that should steer away any team from wanting him anywhere near their locker room. He has been a menace to the Pittsburgh area, whose behavior both on and off the field has continued to worsen. Former teammates, like Ryan Clark (now of ESPN) and fellow wideout Emmanuel Sanders (now of the Denver Broncos) have both talked about how Brown became out of control, alienating teammates, and showing himself to be a player counterproductive to any team goal. He threw constant tantrums on the field or sideline if he felt he wasn't involved enough in the offense, regardless of whether the Steelers were winning or losing. Even Brown's supposed "competitiveness", something his supporters often used to defend his ridiculous behavior, must now be doubted because of the way his 2018 season ended. After an alleged argument with Roethlisberger during practice as the Steelers approached their regular season finale, a game they had to win to even have a chance at the playoffs, Brown left the team's facility and skipped all remaining activities leading up to the game. Despite not returning any attempts of teammates, coaches, and management to get in touch with him, Brown showed up at the stadium expecting to play in Pittsburgh's contest against the Bengals, but was instead suspended by Steeler coach Mike Tomlin. Like a child who has never been forced to take responsibility for his actions, Brown paraded around the sideline for the first portion of the game, then left altogether at halftime. While he is certainly not the sole offender, Brown is the poster boy for the dysfunction that now surrounds one of the more respected franchises and ownership in professional sports.
Michael Thomas is the unquestioned number one wideout on the New Orleans Saints, one of the best receivers in the National Football League, and every bit as productive as Antonio Brown has been over the last two seasons. While the Saints offense was a bit limited at times in 2018 because of the inconsistencies of rookie wideouts Tre'quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood, and the team may look to add another receiver through free agency and/or the draft, Brown is not the answer. His actions toward his own teammates and general behavior have made it clear that attracting attention to himself takes a far higher priority than pursuing a championship, thus making him a divisive presence to any team's chemistry. Some may point out that strong coaching and locker room leadership could counteract Brown's selfish and disruptive behavior, but Saints fans need only look back on the 2014 season to realize how easily a team's chemistry can be disrupted. A talented team, with established leadership such as Drew Brees, Cameron Jordan, Pierre Thomas, and Curtis Lofton became a splintered locker room thanks to a contract dispute with star tight end Jimmy Graham and divisive behavior from players such as Junior Galette and Kenny Stills. The Saints learned their lesson from that debacle, and are above the clown like behavior of a self-centered attention starved player like Brown. Antonio Brown will get his change of scenery somewhere, and he'll also likely get the new contract with more guaranteed money that he's now reportedly seeking. Be thankful that it won't be in New Orleans, where this whole team's goal is instead the pursuit of a title, something that Mr. Brown wouldn't understand.