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Keidel: Jets Should Stay Away From Trading For Antonio Brown

Jason Keidel
January 09, 2019 - 1:32 pm
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Considering the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most stable, steady, and successful clubs in the NFL, it's odd to see them implode over a few short months. Especially the 2018 squad, fertile with talent, one of the few teams expected to contend for this year's Super Bowl. 

It's particularly baffling to black & gold devotees who cherished the low-key regularity of the Rooney family, who never meddled in the team's on-field business. Steelers fans also relished the fact that the club has employed just three head coaches since 1969, the year Chuck Noll was hired. Noll won four Super Bowls, Bill Cowher won one, and current coach Mike Tomlin bagged a sixth Lombardi Trophy, giving the Steelers the most Super Bowl rings since they started playing them. 

Yet despite the longterm stability from the owner to the punter, we saw the Steelers collapse from within, tying the Cleveland Browns in the first game, before Baker Mayfield won the starting job. Then all-world halfback Le'Veon Bell kept posting selfies from Miami rather than reporting to his employer to sign his $14 million franchise tender. Then after stumbling against Denver and Oakland, sinking to 7-5-1, we started hearing rumblings about the wholly talented but highly tormented wideout Antonio Brown's endless beefs with the team, from static with the head coach to allegedly throwing a football at QB Ben Roethlisberger.

If you listen to Boomer & Gio, you've often heard Gio wax romantic about Brown's early years, defined by hard work, little money, and charming modesty. The truth is Antonio Brown increasingly lived on the margins, then when he became rich he lost what little modesty and restraint he had left. More than any specific issue Brown had with Big Ben or Mike Tomlin, Brown exploded and waged a social media war with his team once his teammates voted WR JuJu Smith-Schuster the team's MVP. That is a symbolic slap in the face to someone of Brown's biblical vanity.

At least Bell left the team because he never signed a long-term deal at market value. Brown has begged to be traded simply because he's not universally worshipped. 

So no matter how good his intentions, Jets safety Jamal Adams is being quite myopic when Tweeting his endless love for @AB84 (Brown's Twitter handle). The Jets are in an enviable spot - strapped with a franchise QB, a high draft pick, and pockets bulging with cap cash. Adams sees this as the perfect time to poach Bell and Brown from the Steelers. 

But a young team with young stars like Adams and Leonard Williams and Sam Darnold needs not only gifted but also sagacious stars on their club, It doesn't matter how much money or shiny new players you have if they don't land on the same, selfless page. An NFL team employs 53 men with egos even bigger than their biceps, so it takes an earnest and honest coach to lead them, and team-first star players to echo the coach's codas.

In other words anyone but Antonio Brown, who not only suffered increasing meltdowns and public outbursts, he bailed on the team before the last game of the year, the most important game of the season, with their playoff future on the line. First, it was a knee issue, then he blew up in practice and hurled a pigskin at Big Ben, then he vanished, unable to be reached by his QB or his HC. Eventually, Brown's agent contacted Tomlin saying Brown was ready to go, and Tomlin rightfully told Drew Rosenhaus that the team doesn't do business that way. 

Sure, despite his me-first mantras and meltdowns, Brown still caught over 100 passes and led the league in touchdowns, with 15. Since 2013 Brown has been the most productive wideout in the sport, averaging 114 catches, 1,524 yards, and 11 TDs.  

But Brown is about stats over wins. He's also deep into the back-nine of his career, turning 31 before the 2019 season starts. He's only going to get worse, which means he will only get louder, increasingly worried about his brand rather than catching the ball. No matter, it seems the player and employer are past the point of reconciliation. 

But the Jets can build through the draft and find free agents who actually want to be here. Brown does not qualify. After he stopped following the Steelers on Instagram, Brown added the 49ers to his IG list. Brown also followed Niners TE George Kittle and QB Jimmy Garappolo. If Brown is so spellbound by San Francisco, why would Gang Green recruit him? 

Then there's the four-year, $68 million deal Brown signed before the 2017 season. There are all kinds of cap implications for the Steelers, who could eat up to $21 million if they trade the loquacious WR. The Jets, Browns, Colts, and 49ers are a few teams that can fit that contract under their cap. But as with everything Antonio Brown, the money is only one variable in a sprawling, chaotic algorithm that will only become more confounding as Brown inches toward his retirement. 

The Jets can afford Antonio Brown the player. But they will never be able to handle the person. Draft and sign players because they want to be Jets, not because they don't want to be Steelers. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel