What an Antonio Brown to Cleveland trade might look like


It’s not going to happen. Pittsburgh is not that distraught, there is no way Antonio Brown is going to get traded inside the division, just for Steelers fans to see their former All-Pro wideout go off in brown and orange two times a year against them… But just go with me here. It’s already been a crazy week where Browns players, national reporters, local beat guys, plane spotters out at Hopkins, your cousin Jerry hanging around baggage claim and his girlfriend Lisa who works for a real estate firm fielding calls about large homes in the Cleveland area all had #BrownsTwitter in an uproar with rumors flying around about a possible Odell Beckham Jr trade, let’s let ourselves dream a little. I want to explore what such an offer would look like going to Pittsburgh, why Cleveland would do it, and what the roster would look like if Cleveland acquired him.

The payout: Cleveland’s 2019 1st round pick (No. 17), a 3rd round pick in 2019, and a future 3rd round pick for Brown and a 2019 4th round pick. 

Pittsburgh has been staunchly stringent on receiving a first-round pick in exchange for Brown, but reports have not designated which year the pick would be in, 2019 or 2020. However, given that this is an intradivisional foe, all the pricetags just got changed to double, despite the fact that Pittsburgh has lost most of the leverage in any kind of deal. There is no way Cleveland would be able to sell Pittsburgh on trading Brown without receiving their 2019 first round pick in return, and the other picks are mostly flotsam to create equal value back. The cost seems high in that regard for Cleveland fans: trading a first round pick for an established player is not something we are used to. Now if it was a draft day trade down to accumulate more picks…that feels more like home, but this is a new era of Browns football, one in which we are the buyers, not the sellers. That means eschewing Day 1 of the draft and getting an All-Pro level player in return. Undoubtedly, Pittsburgh fans will look at the return for Brown in this totally-fantastical trade and be upset about the compensation, so you know it would be about right for both teams: when no one is happy.

The why: Cleveland upgrades the long bereft wide receiver position, while also weakening a rival and divisional foe

The why seems easy enough: Brown is a top-five wide receiver in the NFL and with quarterback Baker Mayfield and others on rookie deals, now is the time to strike and use the ever-increasing cap1 to fill out a roster that has fewer holes than you’d think. While some, myself included, think a bona fide No. 1 receiver in the form of Brown is unnecessary for Cleveland given Mayfield’s propensity to wing the pigskin to whichever receiver is open, it’s hard to argue with the resume Brown brings to the table. Six straight years of more than 100 receptions, six straight years of over 1200 yards receiving, six Pro Bowl seasons, four first-team All-Pro seasons, only one season2 where he had a catch rate lower than 60%.

Also, an underrated part of any trade with Pittsburgh is the opportunity to poach talent from your rival. While it’s hardly seemed like a rivalry over the years, Steelers/Browns still gets the fan bases hyped beyond belief, and the locker rooms are hardly friendly with one another either. After the Joe Haden fiasco, when he was a late training camp cut and then subsequently signed with the black and yellow, the renewed bitterness between the two had the fires stoked. It would be nice for once to take from the Steel City.

The roster: Brown becomes the No. 1, Jarvis Landry stays in the slot, Breshad Perriman tries to find work elsewhere

While free agency has not yet started, the Browns lose some cap space but gain a blue chipper. Brown takes over as the No. 1 receiver atop the depth chart, with Jarvis Landry filling in as the No. 2 in the slot. Antonio Callaway takes up the Z spot across the field from Brown, with Rashard Higgins, he of the newly tagged draft compensation tender, coming in as the fourth receiver. Getting squeezed out is Breshad Perriman, the now-journeyman wide receiver who joined the team last year after injuries ravaged the wide receiver position and played well enough to garner interest from general manager John Dorsey, but not enough to warrant the salary he seemed to want. Second-year players like Damion Ratley and Derrick Willies will still be around but as injury depth and kickoff coverage help. Top to bottom, the position could have some of the most firepower in the league, as Callaway comes into his own in a Juju Smith-Schuster kind of way across from Brown, all helped by first down makers Landry and Higgins. With Baker behind center…all bets are off.

Likelihood of occurrence: 2%

It’s not happening. I basically just spent thirty minutes of my time researching and typing for what amounts to making you read 900 words of Browns fan faction. But! in a “hey let’s throw some stuff against the wall and see what sticks” kind of way…if it DOES happen, you heard it here first.3

  1. Thanks to the cutting of useful but underproductive linebacker Jamie Collins. []
  2. Way back in 2011. []
  3. Truth be told, expect Oakland to acquire the wide receiver. Despite the regime change, he’s exactly a Raiders type of player and they have three first round picks to deal with Pittsburgh. It’s so obvious that it should have been done already. []