If not for anything else, the offseason is a chance to drink in all the rumors and explore all the possible timelines—even the darkest of those timelines.
According to MyBookie Sportsbook, the Detroit Lions have the second-best odds to land Antonio Brown, the guy who’s currently not speaking to anyone—“officially”—within the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.
While everyone has taken to Twitter with hypothetical trades, arguing the value of draft picks, the value of Antonio Brown himself, and a bunch of other stuff that’s almost entirely conjecture, it’s important to keep some things in mind while playing Armchair GM, and over at Spotrac, Michael Ginnitti outlines the important factors to keep in mind when trading a player of Brown’s magnitude.
Whether or not you’re for or against the Lions making a move to acquire Brown, here’s quick a guide as to what you need to know if you’re discussing this scenario so you can be more responsible and informed in your Twitter discourse—this should become the go-to example of what an oxymoron is, but also not.
The Steelers would likely want to trade Brown after June 1
For Pittsburgh, moving Brown after June 1 allows them the opportunity to spread out the dead cap penalties incurred from trading Brown over two league years, thus making a trade more palatable from a salary cap management standpoint. So when you’re discussing trades involving draft picks, you’re not talking about 2019 draft picks, you’re talking about 2020 and beyond.
Should the Steelers trade Brown before March 17—well before the 2019 NFL Draft—Pittsburgh would save $2.5 million in roster bonuses, passing that expense to the team acquiring Brown, but it would also accelerate his dead cap hit into the Steelers’ 2019 cap figure. Which, again, thanks to the awesome breakdown over at Spotrac, looks like this:
Between March 13th - March 17th
The Steelers would take on a $21.12M dead cap hit in 2019
Between March 17th - June 1st
The Steelers would take on a $23.62M dead cap hit in 2019
After June 1st
The roster bonus will have been paid, and added to the dead cap ($23.62M total)
The dead cap would be split up as $9.54M in 2019, & $14.08M in 2020.
The Lions really need another wide receiver
So I was completely on board with the decision to trade Golden Tate. The team should continue to make forward-thinking moves like that in the future, and nothing has changed about my sentiments when it comes to trading Tate.
With that being said, it’s pretty clear the Lions offense, as a unit, struggled in adjusting to life after Tate. In seven games with the self-proclaimed—but deservedly so—“YAC King”, the Lions averaged 24.4 points per game. Had Detroit continued along on that pace, the Lions would have finished in 12th in the NFL.
Instead, Detroit’s offensive had an identity crisis and managed to score just 17 points per game—finishing near the bottom of the league at 25th in scoring.
To ignore Tate as being a vital component of the offense is myopic and dumb. It’s also silly to dismiss other factors like Marvin Jones Jr. and Kerryon Johnson, the Lions other top contributors on offense, heading to IR before the end of the season. But if anything stood out from Bob Quinn’s press conference last week, it’s clear the Lions are in the market for playmakers—and they have been, actively. They tried trading for Rob Gronkowski last offseason, but to no avail.
If Quinn is in the market for playmakers, one of the best playmakers in football, Antonio Brown, is available. If you don’t think the Lions are interested based on past information, or the team’s offense wouldn’t benefit greatly from the addition of arguably the best wide receiver in the world, you’re doing this wrong. But that’s fine, that’s why I’m writing this guide: to help you out!
It’s okay to want/not want Antonio Brown and still be a Lions fan
For a number of reasons I’m not going to get into specifically, it’s definitely okay for you to want, or not want, Brown on the Lions roster.
Draft capital is a tricky thing to value, and it’s going to take some seriously valuable assets to get any deal for Brown done. No one has a definitive answer as to what the market value of a player like Brown should be. For example, Amari Cooper is not Antonio Brown, nor will he ever be Brown both in the corporeal or in terms of productivity on a football field. Brown is literally a Hall of Fame wide receiver—he has 837 career receptions and 74 touchdowns in nine seasons for Jiminy Crickets—if he never plays another down of football, so how much does it cost to acquire him in the prime of his career? The short answer: probably more than you think.
But while Brown is at his football playing apex, we know how fleeting those moments can be in the NFL. Sustainability isn’t very predictable in a sport like football given the nature of the game, and even then, how much does AB—who will be 31 by season’s start next year—have left in the tank? Do we have a ton of examples of 5-foot-10 wide receivers playing at as high of a level as Brown has into their 30s? Does that even matter? He was on a Madden cover, so are we still doing that whole thing? If so, does this past year of weirdness count and then the team acquiring him is off the hook?
The Mothership wrote this piece outlining what the Steelers could get for Antonio Brown and which teams should try and make an offer for the Pepsi spokesperson. Not so surprisingly, the Lions were included as a potential suitor and benefactor for Brown’s services to the tune of a first-round pick, a third-round pick (from the Tate trade) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin...
I got this close to making it through this whole thing without a single hypothetical and here we are, no better than the jagaloons on Twitter.