Did the Seahawks bait the Bucs into signing Antonio Brown?


Antonio Brown, one of the most erratic—but also among the most productive—receivers in recent memory, is headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where the seven-time Pro Bowler will reunite with former Patriots teammate (at least for one game) Tom Brady. Friday’s bombshell announcement drew a myriad of responses from the football and sports media communities with some, including Mike Florio, wondering if the Bucs got played.

Earlier this week, Brown appeared destined for the grunge capital with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirming the team’s interest in signing the enigmatic receiver at the conclusion of his eight-game suspension, the result of multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. But was the Seahawks’ reported interest genuine or an elaborate ruse to goad another team, in this case the Buccaneers, into taking a potentially thorny decision out of their hands?

Brown’s on-field talent is without question—he paced the NFL with 15 receiving touchdowns as recently as 2018—but lately, the 32-year-old has been equally adept at torpedoing every locker room he steps foot in. Adding a player of Brown’s elite caliber to an already stacked receiving corps featuring speedster Tyler Lockett and Terrell Owens clone D.K. Metcalf would give teams even more reason to fear the undefeated Seahawks. However, bringing Brown and the three-ring circus that comes with him into the fold would also invite unnecessary drama to a team that’s been firing on all cylinders.

Florio suspects Carroll and GM John Schneider were reluctant to pull the trigger on AB—understandable given his checkered past including a January arrest and multiple allegations of sexual misconduct—but didn’t have the guts to break that news to star quarterback Russell Wilson, who has been effusive in his praise of Brown. With Wilson and upper management apparently on different wavelengths, Florio posits the crafty Seahawks were bluffing and the overzealous Bucs took the bait.

“Carroll and G.M. John Schneider may not have wanted to risk adding Brown to the roster, but they also may not have wanted to tell their MVP candidate of a quarterback that they wouldn’t sign him,” explained Florio in his column for ProFootballTalk on NBC Sports. “By making it known that they were interested, the Seahawks essentially shouted ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ and waited for someone else to speak for Brown before they could. If so, it worked.”

Everyone is entitled to their own theory, but Florio’s is that the scheming Seahawks hatched a diabolical plot and the Buccaneers fell for it hook, line and sinker.

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