Antonio Brown’s Journey from Hall of Fame Prospect to Free Agent

Christian Welton

Antonio Brown has been a player of high concern for the past couple of years.  

He went from being an NFL Hall of Fame prodigy to a free agent avoided by every major team, eventually picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  His path from one team to the next has been overly dramatic, so let me recap it for you.

On December 23, 2018, Antonio Brown unknowingly played his last game as a Pittsburgh Steeler; the place that he called his home was now going to leave him.

Brown had gotten into some major trouble after filming and streaming on Facebook live, head coach Mike Tomlin, giving a very explicit and vulgar speech in the locker room after a post-season victory.

The Steelers were riding an 8-6-1 record and going for a playoff spot heading into Week 16 of the regular season.  In that Week 16 game, Brown had 14 catches, 185 yards, and two touchdowns on 19 total targets.  


Antonio Brown on the Steelers. Photo via The Washington Post

Antonio Brown on the Steelers. Photo via The Washington Post

No fan would be able to predict what was to come for Brown.

On December 30, 2018, Antonio Brown was listed by the NFL as having a “knee injury”; he missed Wednesday and Thursday practice. Brown said he was undergoing tests on Friday and then went on to miss Saturday’s practice.

The NFL benched Brown for the Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.  

Mike Tomlin stated that he was benched “due to injury and lack of information” leading up to that game.

Multiple reports came out that Brown had thrown a football at Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ quarterback, out of anger due to JuJu Smith-Schuster being named team MVP.  

After nine seasons and a Hall of Fame trajectory, Antonio Brown’s run had come to an end.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports spoke on the altercation via Twitter.

“The altercation that led to Antonio Brown’s benching last week was with Ben Roethlisberger. I’m told it was fairly ugly, and the WR was totally in the wrong.  He went AWOL essentially for the 3rd time this season dating back to training camp.”

The NFL reported that Brown “elected to sit out practice last week” following his dispute with the Steelers QB.

On January 3, 2019, Brown’s former teammate Ryan Clark, now ESPN analyst, said that the Steelers should get rid of Brown and that they created a “monster by giving him a big contract.”  Brown went on to call Clark an “Uncle Tom.”

Antonio Brown then went on to have multiple legal issues.

On February 12, 2019, Brown was found guilty of reckless driving because he didn’t show up to court for the charge.  The incident took place in November of 2018 because the Ross Township Police Department in Pennsylvania cited Brown for driving more than 100 mph.

Antonio Brown then tweeted this out on February 19, 2019,

“Had a great meeting with Mr. Rooney [owner of the Steelers] today, we discussed a lot of things, and we cleared the air on several issues!  We both agreed that it is time to move on, but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and the Steelers organization!”

That was the end of Brown’s Steeler’s career, but there’s much more to his journey.

On March 10, 2019, Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders by the Steelers for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick.  

The Raiders made Brown the highest-paid Wide Receiver by signing him to a three year $50-million deal with $30-million guaranteed.

However, Brown was not going to stay out of trouble with the Raiders. 

On August 3, 2019, not only did Brown decide to fly into the Raider’s training camp in a hot air balloon, but he also showed up with some foot issues. On Brown’s Instagram, he posted a picture of his foot, all mangled up, after wearing improper footwear in a cryogenic chamber.

On August 9, 2019, Brown threatened to retire from the NFL because they decided to ban helmet models older than ten years due to safety concerns.  

Brown did not like the idea of this because he claimed the new helmets “interfere with his vision.” 

He filed two grievances against the NFL and decided to stay away from practice until he could find a helmet that satisfied his needs.  

He finally decided to wear the Xenith Shadow helmet during the 2019 season.

On August 14, 2019, Brown had a lawsuit filed against him. 

Stefano Tedeschi, a celebrity chef whom he hired to cook for him in January, was fired on the second day by Brown, who held his cooking tools from him and refused to pay his $38,521.20 paycheck. The lawsuit was dismissed.

On September 4, 2019, Brown posted a photo of a letter he received from Raider’s general manager Mike Mayock to his Instagram page regarding a fine he was receiving due to practice absence.  


Antonio Brown letter from Mike Mayock via @AB on Instagram

Antonio Brown letter from Mike Mayock via @AB on Instagram

Brown had apologized to Mayock and begged for a release from the team on his Instagram.  He was then released from the team on September 7, 2019, fulfilling his wish.

Within hours of his release, the Patriots picked up Brown for a 1-year deal at $15-million.

Shortly after being signed to the Patriots and before he could even play a game, Brown’s former trainer accused him of rape in a federal lawsuit.

Luckily for Brown, he was able to play in Week 2 with the Patriots against the Miami Dolphins.  In that game, he caught four passes for 56 yards and scored one touchdown.


Antonio Brown on the Patriots. Photo via The Boston Globe

Antonio Brown on the Patriots. Photo via The Boston Globe

On September 20, 2019, Brown was finally released from the Patriots after a second woman accused him of sexual assault. He then went on to send threatening messages to each of the women.

In January of 2020, Brown had an arrest warrant set out for him after felony, burglary, and battery charges.  He turned himself in to the police a day later before posting bond.

On October 21, 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quietly opened $4.125-million in cap space (the max amount of money a team is allowed to spend on players) by restructuring player Ali Marpet’s contract, turning a portion of his salary into a bonus. This change was made to allot funds to sign Brown to the team, despite previous slanderous comments from the head coach.

On March 26, 2020, Bruce Arians, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach, attacked rumors of him wanting to pick up Brown.

“There’s no room and probably not enough money.  It’s just not going to happen. It’s not a fit here,” Arians stated, “I just know him, and it’s not a fit in our locker room.”

Despite Arian’s comments, on October 23, 2020, at 7:30 pm ET, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal between the Bucs and Brown had been completed. Brown was officially on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Update: Antonio Brown and the Buccaneers have reached agreement on a one-year deal, per sources,” said Schefter.  “Language still has to be finalized, COVID protocols passed, but Brown is likely to make his Bucs’ debut in Week 9 against the Saints.”

Once together on the Patriots, Brown and Brady will be reunited again, and the Buccaneers offense will now be more dangerous than ever before.  All we can do is pray that Brown stays out of trouble.