As we approached midnight on the day the Steelers said was their preferred deadline for finding a trade partner for Antonio Brown, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport dropped the bombshell that the Bills were “closing in on a deal” for Brown.
Sources: The #Steelers are closing in on a deal to send star WR Antonio Brown to the Buffalo #Bills. There it is.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 8, 2019
Naturally, this news spread quickly. It was also rebutted quickly. First by Antonio Brown himself on Instagram, calling it “Fake news.”
That in and of itself isn’t proof a deal wasn’t happening. There could have easily been discussions the Bills and Steelers were having that he wasn’t in on. But it didn’t stop there.
Soon there was an actual conflicting report from Vic Carucci, who is a very trusted voice when it comes to the Bills. Carucci said a deal is not imminent and his source went on to say it was “unlikely.”
An NFL source says #Bills have inquired about Antonio Brown with the #Steelers, but no deal is imminent. In fact, another league source termed it "unlikely."— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) March 8, 2019
And then AP’s John Wawrow chimed in to echo the sentiment that a trade was not imminent or even likely.
Moving the chances of #Bills acquiring Antonio Brown to the less than likely bin.— John Wawrow (@john_wawrow) March 8, 2019
And can firmly report that nothing is considered "imminent."
Told Buffalo did contact Steelers regarding Brown as part of doing their due diligence.
How far it got beyond that is uncertain.
Then, of course, there’s the wild card in all this — Antonio Brown. Even if the two teams are headed for an agreement, will Brown nix it. Could it be that his opposition to the trade is what turned a deal that seemed imminent into anything but?
As the #Bills and #Steelers close in on a trade for Antonio Brown, one big question remains: Will AB go? He has said he wants a new contract and won't play if it's not by his rules. If Brown wants to blow this up, his weapon is saying he'll retire rather than play in Buffalo.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 8, 2019
UPDATE: It would appear Brown did refuse to report to the Bills.
Antonio Brown indicated he would not report to Bills if traded, according to source.— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) March 8, 2019
That’s so AB.
This doesn’t mean we won’t wake up tomorrow to see Antonio Brown in Buffalo after all. It doesn’t mean the deal is off.
UPDATE: The deal is off. Bills GM made a statement saying such.
Bills’ GM Brandon Beane: “We inquired about Antonio Brown on Tuesday, and kept talks open with the Steelers. We had positive discussions, but ultimately it didn’t make sense for either side. As great a player as Antonio Brown is, we have moved on and our focus is on free agency.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 8, 2019
The Raiders are still thought to be in the mix, but this certainly doesn’t mean they are for sure the next option. Brown could refuse that trade as well in favor of, say, Indianapolis, which is reportedly also interested.
Potentially the next most interested team could be the Packers according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
It was tough to find teams that were in on Antonio Brown, one of those teams though...the Packers. Green Bay was interested and looking to make moves per sources.— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 8, 2019
UPDATE: The Packers interest is only if Brown’s compensation goes down as well as his guaranteed money demands as well, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
It's true the #Packers were not in the initial trade talks with #Steelers WR Antonio Brown, but if the compensation drops and there's no guaranteed money, they'll talk about it. And why not? For a mid-round pick, the risk wouldn't be that great. The contract is key.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) March 8, 2019
You can imagine Antonio Brown would much prefer catching passes from Aaron Rodgers than Josh Allen.
There hasn’t been a dull moment in the Antonio Brown saga yet. If anything it’s getting kind of annoying. But it just wouldn’t be fitting for it to end with a soft landing. This thing is going out guns blazing.