Antonio Brown’s short tenure with the Oakland Raiders came to an abrupt end on Saturday, but some league insiders believe his exit and immediate jump to New England may not have been so spontaneous.
The All-Pro wide receiver publicly asked the team for his release on Saturday, the culmination of weeks of bizarre outbursts and strange feuds from Brown that included a physical confrontation with Raiders general manager Mike Mayock. Not long after Brown officially became a free agent at 4:01 p.m. on Saturday, reports emerged that he would be signing a one-year, $15 million deal with the New England Patriots.
The almost immediate jump to the defending Super Bowl champions led many to suspect that it was Brown’s plan all along to force the Raiders to release him so that he could join the Patriots.
“People I’ve talked to in the league think was intentional,” Michael Lombardi of The Athletic tweeted. “He wanted out and go to NE. Not sure I’m buying it”
Some even suggested that the New England Patriots may have been in on the scheme as well, noting that it appeared coordinated with how quickly he signed on with the team in a deal that included a $9 million signing bonus.
I just got a text from someone I trust in the league and they believe this was all coordinated. That at some point AB got word that Pats would sign him if he ever got released.
— Robert Littal (@BSO) September 7, 2019
Others noted that Antonio Brown seemed to have been planning the move all along. Late on Friday night, he posted on YouTube a highly produced hype video showing himself working out overlaid with audio of a phone call with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who pleaded with him to return to the team.
“Please stop this sh*t and just play football,” Gruden said.
Later, after Brown officially signed with the Patriots, he took to Instagram to post an artistic drawing of himself wearing a No. 84 Patriots jersey surrounded by cash and the words “Business Is Boomin.”
As ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted, Brown will not be eligible to play for the Patriots on Sunday when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football, a game that takes on new meaning after Brown forced his way off of the Steelers at the conclusion of last season. Some fans had already been speculating that Brown may have needed to first stop in Oakland on his way to the New England Patriots roster, knowing that the Steelers would have never traded him to New England directly when he demanded a trade earlier this year.
Antonio Brown is now expected to play a significant role on a New England Patriots team that had already been a popular Super Bowl pick prior to his unexpected arrival.