Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown tweeted a goodbye to fans of the team on Tuesday, telling his followers that it was “time to move on and forward” after nine years with the team.
One the same day, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Brown had officially requested a trade away from the Steelers.
Relationship Soured During 2018 Season
Brown has had a long and successful run with the Steelers since being drafted by the team in the 2010 NFL Draft. He is a four-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection, having caught 837 passes for over 11,000 yards and 74 touchdowns in his career.
But the 30-year-old receiver seemed discontented with Pittsburgh during 2018. Last month, team president Art Rooney II told reporters that he felt something had changed with Brown during the final week of the regular season, but that he hadn’t been able to talk to his player about the situation. Brown failed to show up for practice the day before Pittsburgh’s regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Red Flags Could Hurt Brown’s Trade Value
Based on his productivity, the Steelers should be able to get something significant back in exchange for Brown, with some believing Pittsburgh will seek a first-round pick in compensation. But there are a number of red flags that could lower Brown’s value in the eyes of potential trade partners.
Tuesday also saw Brown fail to show up at his trial date for a speeding incident that happened in November, when he was driving a sports car at over 100 mph near Pittsburgh. Brown had already paid a fine in the case and was represented by a local lawyer in the proceeding. Judge Ricard Opiela found Brown guilty in his absence.
Teams might also be concerned about a January report that Brown was involved in a domestic dispute. While details of the incident were sketchy, TMZ Sports confirmed that the Hollywood Police Department in Florida did investigate the situation and made a report after a woman contacted authorities.
While Pittsburgh will likely shop around for the best offer they can get, Brown might have a preferred destination in mind. He has already posted images of himself in a 49ers jersey, and former San Francisco receiver Jerry Rice said last month that Brown wanted to join the team.
Pittsburgh Weighs Financial Options
One of the biggest questions about how the Steelers will handle the situation comes down to when they will look to trade Brown. On the one hand, Brown will receive a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17, meaning Pittsburgh could save a fair amount of money by dealing the wide receiver quickly.
But the team might enjoy more flexibility if they wait until the summer. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, waiting until June 1 to deal Brown would allow the Steelers to break up the team’s salary cap hit over 2019 and 2020.
The turmoil in Pittsburgh has seen the Steelers fall from a leading Super Bowl contender early last season to a second-tier team heading into the 2019 campaign. William Hill currently lists Pittsburgh at 20/1 to win Super Bowl 54, tied for the ninth-best odds with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.