The NFL combine gets underway today, the deadline for franchise tags is a week from today, and free agency begins a week after that. With all of that sitting out there, the biggest potential offseason domino to fall involves none of that. Future Hall of Fame wide receiver Antonio Brown has bitched, moaned, and quit his way out of Pittsburgh, and all that's left is the "when, where, and for how much" of the inevitable trade to unload him.
As we watch this saga play out from afar — no, the Texans are not getting anywhere NEAR an Antonio Brown trade — here are my four thoughts on this situation:
4. Can Juju Smith-Schuster be a true No. 1 WR?
Statistically, the former second round pick out of USC WAS a number one wide receiver in 2018. In just his second year in the league, Smith-Schuster caught 11 balls for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. He was no doubt helped greatly by the presence of Brown (when available) and his 104 catches for 1,297 yards. How will Smith-Schuster adapt to being the new "kill spot" for opposing defenses? When the Patriots game plan for teams, their goal is to take away the most dangerous weapon of the opposition. Two seasons ago in Pittsburgh, that was probably Le'Veon Bell. Last season, it was Brown. Now, it will be Smith-Schuster. This will feel new to him. How he adapts will be a big story as the 2019 season approaches.
3. I think Brown would be a Cowboy right now, if not for the Amari Cooper trade.
Midway through the 2018 season, Jerry Jones decided to trade the Cowboys' 2019 first round pick to the Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper. At the time, it was a puzzling trade for the Cowboys, given Cooper's downward trend in production the last couple seasons, and his pending second contract coming up either this offseason or next offseason. As it turned out, Cooper was a big boon to the Cowboys run to the playoffs (over 700 yards receiving in eight games), and they're probably thrilled with the deal. That said, if the Cowboys were still sitting on their first round pick, with no marquee wide receiver, I have zero doubt that Brown would be a Cowboy already, and we'd be discussing what the Steelers plan to do with an extra first round pick. Zero doubt. none.
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2. These places? No chance in hell.
That said, the Raiders are sitting on a couple extra first round picks, including the Cowboys' pick for Cooer. So perhaps Jon Gruden wants to make a splash with all of this extra draft change in his pocket. Reportedly, the Steelers would like to deal Brown outside the AFC. I think the one thing we can safely assume is that, at the very least, Brown will NOT be a Patriot, Brown, Raven, or Bengal. For what it's worth, I'm going to say Brown winds up a San Francisco 49er. There's a need, and the Niners have to feel a sense of urgency in the same division as the Rams and Seahawks.
1. Holy crap, how lucky has Houston been with marquee wide receivers?
As I watched this Brown drama play out in Pittsburgh, and watched Odell Beckham's name come and go from the trade rumor wire this offseason, all I can think is "Man, how lucky are we here in Houston to have had an All Pro level wide receiver basically every season in franchise history — Andre Johnson 2003-2014, DeAndre Hopkins 2013-present — and have ZERO of the soap opera?"
The answer — very lucky.