49ers should take hard pass on Antonio Brown… again
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers could use wide receiver help, and the perennial Pro Bowler Antonio Brown is out there. But, no thanks.
It’s time for Round 2 of the possible San Francisco 49ers and wide receiver Antonio Brown sweepstakes.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers were dangling the seven-time Pro Bowler this time last year, it wasn’t hard to see why the Niners could be interested. They needed receiving help, and even Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was behind the idea.
Yet San Francisco took a hard pass. Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders, then let go before signing a deal with the New England Patriots, then let go again. He remains a free agent.
Fast-forward to the 2020 offseason, and the 49ers could again be considering wide receiver help after losing second-year pro Deebo Samuel to a Jones fracture in his left foot along with depth receiver Richie James to a broken wrist. Both players could feasibly miss the first few weeks of the regular season this September, so it’s not too surprising there’s a little bit of buzz surrounding the Niners going after Brown.
Sure, the argument makes sense on the surface. Even though he’ll turn 32 years old by the start of the season and missed the vast majority of his 2019 campaign for a number of high-profile reasons, the Niners would be just fine without Brown’s presence.
They were before in 2019.
49ers were fine without a top-tier wideout early in 2019
San Francisco brought aboard a veteran pass catcher to help out what was then an anemic wide receiver room for the first half of the season, former Denver Broncos wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who helped get the most out of Samuel during the second half.
Samuel tabbed Sanders as a tremendous locker-room leader, which isn’t exactly the kind of reputation Brown carries. Just ask Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.
And while the Niners had issues with their wide receiver production over the first half of 2019, it doesn’t erase the fact the team started off a perfect 8-0, being the last undefeated squad in the league by that point.
Brown wasn’t needed to rescue San Francisco’s offense then. Why would he be needed in a similar capacity now?
Examining 49ers’ previous decision on Antonio Brown
The Niners were interested in wide receiver help a year ago at this time despite taking Samuel in Round 2 of last year’s NFL Draft.
But according to general manager John Lynch, in a March 2019 interview with KNBR 680, Brown was never on San Francisco’s radar.
“On Antonio, we took a quick look and then we just said ‘Hey you know we’re not interested in that for our team,'” Lynch said. “That’s where we are.”
The 49ers receiving room wasn’t in quite the shape it’s at now heading into 2020. Samuel, while injured, made huge strides last year. But one of San Francisco’s biggest offseason investments, a first-round pick on Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, is expected to shoulder a big load for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Bringing Brown aboard wouldn’t exactly help Aiyuk’s development.
On top of that, Brown’s actions both on and off the field wouldn’t exactly be a bonus to what’s turned into a tight-knit 49ers locker room. Sure, there’s the argument Brown could mesh well with some of the more established Niners veterans, such as cornerback Richard Sherman and tight end George Kittle. Yet it’s just as possible Brown flames out in a similar manner like he did in Pittsburgh or Oakland.
Even though the Niners wouldn’t have to give up much of anything aside from a probable low-cost veteran’s minimum contract, the investment still isn’t worth the risk.
San Francisco got by just fine without Brown last season even though Lynch and Co. were in the market for receiving upgrades.
Because of that and all the other factors, there’s no reason why the 49ers should be calling Brown’s agent right now even if the apparent need is there.