Back on April 28, it was reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo that the Buccaneers had agreed to terms on a deal to bring back wide receiver Antonio Brown for the 2021 season.
Of course, it’s typical for teams to make signings official shortly after they’re reported. In this case, it’s May 18 and Tampa Bay has yet to officially announce the return of one of its top receivers from last year’s run to the Super Bowl. In fact, any talk surrounding Brown over the last month has been about anything other than his new contract that will keep him with Tom Brady for another year.
While everyone has been waiting for an official press release from the team acknowledging the reported one-year, $3.1 million deal (worth up to $6.25 million), Brown’s name popped up again recently for the wrong reasons, with a civil lawsuit filed against him stemming from an incident with a moving truck driver that occurred in 2020.
That incident was a part of the veteran receiver’s eight-game suspension last year, so it’s not as if Brown will be punished by the NFL again after this recent lawsuit. So, what’s the holdup on the official announcement of Brown’s return to Tampa Bay?
Well, we got an answer on Tuesday from Bucs head coach Bruce Arians himself. Appearing on The Pewter Report Podcast with Jon Ledyard and Mark Cook, Arians said the Bucs are waiting on the results of Brown’s physical after getting some work done on his knee.
“He has to pass the physical. Hopefully we’ll have a scope on Tuesday—[he’s] getting his knee cleaned up—and everything will work out fine.”
In response to a follow-up question from Cook about the thought process behind retaining the soon-to-be 33-year-old, even with his past off-field issues and the group of receivers the team already has, Arians had this to say:
“We wanted A.B. back. He was a model citizen the whole time he’s been here. And we wanted him back. He’s never had surgery in his life, so it’s just a matter of getting the physical done. Yeah, I’ve wanted him back the whole time.”
Cook was wise to ask for some insight on the decision to re-sign Brown, not just because of his past troubles but also because of the deep crop of talent Tampa Bay has at the receiver position. With Brown re-joining the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson and even fourth-round draft pick Jaelon Darden, it’s fair to question what kind of roles will be carved out for each guy. Not to mention, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are all still on the roster.
It’s quite the group of pass-catchers, and Arians knows it. He had this to say when Ledyard asked if it was the best group he’s ever gotten to coach:
“This is pretty special. Just to get dressed on Sunday, you better be a hell of a special teams player, too. That fifth and sixth spot, man, there’s going to be some great competition. Justin Watson led us in special teams tackles [last year] and I couldn’t get him dressed those last couple of ball games just because of depth at other positions. It’s a great thing to have. They’re all special in their own way. Tyler made those huge catches down the stretch and Scotty obviously made his big plays. Mike’s Mike, Chris is Chris, A.B. has been doing it forever... Each guy’s got a role. They accept their roles, and man, to play quarterback with that group, it’s a lot of fun, especially when you throw that tight end room in there.”
Brady and the Bucs certainly are privileged to have such a deep group. And now we know that Brown is still set to be a part of it—just once the physical is out of the way.
(h/t Pewter Report... Check out the rest of their interview with Bruce Arians for some more great insight on Kyle Trask, Leonard Fournette, his own future and more)