INDIANAPOLIS — If the trade business isn't booming for Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers, would GM Kevin Colbert dare deal one of the best receivers in franchise history not only within the division but to the upstart Cleveland Browns?
Though an MMQB report last month stated that four teams — Pittsburgh's three division rivals and top AFC adversary, the New England Patriots — are non-negotiable in bidding for Brown's services, Colbert didn't sound bent on it this week at the scouting combine, where back-channel talks regarding the disgruntled receiver surely have been exhaustive.
"The less you would have to play against him the better, but if a team comes through
with the best compensation we have to balance that out," Colbert said Wednesday. "OK, we have to play him twice a year but we are going to get the best compensation, so then it’s our job to do the better job with the compensation. You have to weigh all that into the discussions. We haven’t eliminated anybody."
Colbert added that the number of teams pursuing Brown has grown this week after initial discussions involved three of them. We hypothesized here that five teams are legitimate landing spots potentially for Brown. But we hedged a bit in saying that both the Browns and Patriots would be as ideal as anyone.
Patriots HC Bill Belichick and his right-hand personnel man, Nick Caserio, didn't speak at the combine, but it was interesting to hear how Browns GM John Dorsey responded to a question regarding Brown on Thursday.
"I'm not going to talk about another team's players, but, Kevin, if you're out there, here's my cell phone right here," Dorsey said, waving his phone at the podium.
It should be noted Dorsey responded almost exactly the same when the following question was about Odell Beckham Jr.
With their franchise QB secured, the Browns certainly could stand to upgrade the WR corps, led by Jarvis Landry, probably a top-flight WR2 making WR1 cash. But the Browns once again have deep pockets this offseason — north of $78 million in cap space, currently bested only by the Colts and Jets — and extra draft selections in Round 3 and 5.
The team that acquires Brown, unlike Landry's college teammate Beckham, should be prepared to extend his contract, which includes no remaining guarantees beyond the 2019 season. Brown is also four years older than Beckham, though both obviously would bring blue-chip on-field ability and unique baggage off it.
Of course, few general managers are more willing to accept the latter to obtain the former than Dorsey, who signed ex-Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt last month and picked a pair of Florida products with checkered pasts in Antonio Callaway and Caleb Brantley in his first two drafts with the Browns, respectively.
"We had done our research with regards to Kareem, and we thought at the appropriate time, with all of the information that we did have, listening to his story, listening to how truly remorseful he was with regards to the egregious act that transpired, knowing that once he comes here, there is no guarantees. But what he's going to do is he's going to earn your respect and everybody's respect within the Cleveland Browns organization by his actions, not his words, and I've always lived this, is, at the end of the day, if a player can leave not only as a good player but a better person at the end of the day, you've done your job and that's what we're attempting to do here.
"Right now, I feel really comfortable with this signing."
We bet Dorsey also would be comfortable acquiring Brown or Beckham at the right price. What that price is exactly, and whether Colbert and Giants GM Dave Gettleman will tango, could crystalize soon.