Deshaun Watson isn't the only NFL star currently trying to fend off charges of sexual assault. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Antonio Brown faces charges dating right the way back to 2017 when he was still clad in the famed yellow of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Currently a free agent in search of a new team, Brown was yesterday issued an untimely reminder of his fragile value on the free agency market by Judge Michael Robinson, the man presiding over Brown's civil case regarding allegations of sexual assault and rape.
Robinson ordered subpoenas from the teams Brown has most recently represented: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders.
The team behind Britney Taylor, the plaintiff who accused Brown of sexual assault and rape, had originally requested that Broward County Court, Florida grant access to all of Brown's employment records, dating back to his time in Pittsburgh.
Judge Robinson, however, hasn't allowed Taylor’s counsel to subpoena Brown’s employment history with 2020 AFC North Division champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that Brown last represented in 2018. Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times reported that this is because the timeframe is 'overboard and beyond the scope of the relevant discovery'. This news likely came as some shock for the Taylor-camp, given one of the alleged attacks on the plaintiff took place in 2017 while Brown was still with the Steelers.
What does the future hold for Antonio Brown?
Antonio Brown may be one of football's great receivers, but he will know that this recent news regarding his upcoming trial will have done little to boost his free agency stock.
With huge allegations of sexual assault hanging over his head -- and the potential jail sentence that could accompany said allegations were Brown to be found guilty in a court of law -- teams might not want to hazard risk on the 7x Pro Bowler.
Even if the court finds Brown guilty of a lesser offense than those he is accused of and escapes jail, the NFL may still opt to suspend him for a designated period of time, which is likely why -- as of yet -- only two teams have really flirted with Brown in free agency: the Buccaneers and, potentially, the Seattle Seahawks.
Will Antonio Brown return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Brown performed admirably for the Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers last season. The 4x All-Pro was only added to the roster midway through the season, but he still notched up 483-yards and 4 TDs during the regular season. He also registered a TD in the Bucs' Super Bowl win against the Chiefs.
It really couldn't have gone much better for Brown in Tampa than it did, so it's no surprise to hear the Bucs are still flirting with the idea of bringing him back for 2021.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport recently stated:
“His (Brown's) deal with Tampa Bay, I think, is going to be a little bit of a ‘prove it’ type situation. Tampa wants him back. Brady wants him there. That means a lot."
Tampa coach, Bruce Arians recently stated on record that Brown had been “a model citizen” since joining the team, which bodes well for Brown. Plus, if Brady wants to bring him back, well, there's definitely a chance of it happening...
The GOAT gets what the GOAT wants!
Will Antonio Brown link up with Russel Wilson at the Seattle Seahawks?
No team other than the Buccaneers has shown much of an interest in acquiring Antonio Brown's signature during the free agency period... at least not publicly.
The next best bet for Brown is probably a stint with the Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson campaigned for Brown to join him in Seattle before the receivers' move to Tampa last year. Plus, the Seahawks have a hole to fill on their roster, having recently lost WR David Moore (Panthers) to free agency, so Brown is quite probably on head coach Pete Carroll's radar.
Ian Rapoport has also chipped in on a potential Brown move to Seattle, saying:
“If Seattle’s going to say, ‘we believe, we trust you, we’re going to give you real money, not like incentive-laden,’ maybe he goes..."
Antonio Brown's court case gets underway in December. No NFL team wants their badge dragged through the dirt, but -- whether Brown is innocent or guilty -- that's unfortunately what is likely to happen should a team sign him. It's a tricky one.
Brown's best bet would probably be another season in Tampa, with Brady looking out for him. But with the Bucs' stock at an all-time high after winning the Super Bowl, is it a risk the Glazer family and Bruce Arians want to take?
Peering into my crystal ball, I'd have to say that there's a very murky future in store for Antonio Brown.