Antonio Brown is a Patriot.
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Relax and allow yourself to let that sink in.
As you wake up for the first full day of NFL action of the year, no need to ponder the possibility that it was simply one of those feels-real-but-is-really-too-crazy-to-be-true Saturday night dreams.
The All-Pro, future Hall of Fame talent and guy with six straight seasons with 100-plus catches for more than 1,200 yards is about to huddle up and join forces with Tom Brady.
Merely hours after his toxic tale played itself out in social media splendor in Oakland – with Jon Gruden’s Raiders granting his release and holding onto nearly $30 million guaranteed money – Brown reportedly reached a one-year deal in New England worth up to $15 million with $10 million guaranteed.
And, oh yes, it could be spectacular.
While most fans seem to embrace the idea of Brown bringing his immense talents to Foxborough, far more media types spent his limited hours on the open market explaining why Bill Belichick’s Patriots should stay away from the opportunity to land arguably the best wide receiver in the game today.
Quite frankly, I have no idea what they were thinking.
I can explain, though, what Belichick was thinking – opportunity is knocking, open the damn door.
Obviously Brown, like seemingly so many of football’s truly elite receivers, isn’t without his problems. Over the last year – and really over the last week — he has taken instability to a level that has to impress even Terrell Owens. He shot his way out of Pittsburgh, feuding with Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin after being called out by the former and finally taken to task properly by the too-lax latter. He was miffed that he wasn’t the team MVP and his too-fragile ego couldn’t take it.
So, he landed in Oakland and landed a new big-money contract. All was right in the world of Raider Nation as Brown said all the right things to open his career and begin to build his rapport with Derek Carr.
Only then he froze the skin right off his feet. His helmet was banned. He spent more time on social media than the practice field. He threatened GM Mike Mayock and self-destructed faster than a message to Inspector Gadget.
But as both Brown and Belichick will likely tell you at whatever point they officially address their new marriage, all that’s in the past.
As has been the case with so many talented wayward souls before him in New England, it’s not about what you did in the past or even what unexpected route you took to arrive at Gillette. It’s all about what you do upon arrival and what you might do for the Patriots.
What Brown might do is give the Patriots once again the best offense in football. He brings top talent to a wide receiver corps that was previously prematurely propped up by some.
Now you line up Brown, Julian Edelman and some other mix of Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry (later in the year) and Jakobi Meyers. That, my friends, has a chance to be a truly elite unit of pass catchers, especially if you mix in some James White out of the backfield and hold out hope that Rob Gronkowski might even join the tight end fun down the road this season. In fact Brown’s arrival can only help bolster the desire for big No. 87 to come back if there is even a spark left in his football fire.
Brady once again has multiple go-to guys with Brown and Edelman which makes a Patriots team that was already favored to be a top-contender for Super Bowl LIV that much more likely to land in Miami in February to defend its title.
Oh, and those fears that Brown is going disrupt the Patriots and the team’s passing attack rather than ignite it and take it to another level? They are overly fearful at best and ignorant of history at worst.
Endless me-first players, off-field distractions and questionable characters have arrived with similar concerns in the past, going back two decades. Belichick’s system, Brady’s leadership and the locker room culture have taken care of things each and every time.
Corey Dillon fell in line and broke the Patriots team rushing record.
Randy Moss fell in line and broke the NFL single-season touchdown reception record.
Darrelle Revis fell in line and won the Super Bowl.
Not since the 2001 debacle with Terry Glenn has a situation unraveled to the point that it threatened success. Oh, and even that season concluded with an improbable first Super Bowl ring, despite the Glenn saga.
There were blips along the way and sometimes the supposed problem players simply weren’t good enough to contribute anymore. Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson couldn’t pick up the offense or add anything of value to it. Albert Haynesworth lasted less than a year because he did nothing on the field not because he did anything off it. Adalius Thomas lasted three seasons, included one near perfect campaign, before he was deemed not good enough on the field and not a fit off it.
And unlike most of the other reclamation projects on Belichick’s resume, there are no questions about Brown’s ability at the age of 31. He shows no signs of slowing down, coming of a career-high 15 touchdown catches.
Brown is an elite talent – which he’s well aware of and reminds people of whenever possible – who has lacked for way too long the discipline and structure that Belichick’s Patriots provide.
He lost his way in Pittsburgh and then Oakland, but now will almost assuredly find it once again with Belichick, Brady and the rest in Foxborough just like so many of his predecessors before him.
It is what it is. It’s the mythical Patriot Way.
Just like the Patriots could be this season now that Brown has added a Moss-like element to the passing attack.
It’s a perfect short-term marriage.
Anyone who can’t see that, hasn’t really been paying attention.
Related: Based on his Instagram, Antonio Brown is excited to join Patriots