Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez take a critical view of the Lions’ 2018 season and this staff, and discuss reasons to believe in 2019, Dec. 31, 2018.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

Antonio Brown is making starry eyes on Twitter at his potential suitors, and while it seems unlikely the talented receiver plays anywhere other than Pittsburgh next season, he’d surely be someone the Detroit Lions would have to consider if in fact he does reach the trading block this winter.

Brown is one of the best wide receivers in football, and as combustible as he appears after reportedly throwing a ball at Ben Roethlisberger and getting benched for the Steelers’ season finale — a game that Pittsburgh had to win to have a chance at making the playoffs — he’s a transcendent-enough talent that that he’d be worth a roll of the dice in Detroit.

Brown has six straight seasons with more than 1,200 yards receiving, and this year he led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches in as many games.

The Lions had just 16 touchdown catches from their entire receiving corps, by comparison, and haven’t had a 1,200-yard receiver since Calvin Johnson’s final season of 2015.

There are plenty of reasons to believe the Steelers won’t trade Brown this offseason.

As explained in detail by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Steelers would take a massive cap hit of $21.12 million to trade Brown (vs. a cap hit of $22.17 million to keep him), and with two months till any trade can happen, there’s plenty of time for cooler heads to prevail.

Brown’s departure wouldn’t decimate the Steelers offense. Juju Smith-Schuster looks like a star in the making and James Conner filled in admirably for Le’Veon Bell this year. But Roethlisberger turns 37 in March and keeping Brown gives the Steelers their best chance to capitalize on the slim window they have to get back to the Super Bowl.

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From the Lions’ standpoint, Brown does not seem like the kind of player Matt Patricia wants in his locker room, not after the troubles Patricia had getting players to buy into his ways this year.

But Brown is the type of player the Lions, coming off a disappointing six-win season, can use, and it’d be up to Patricia and the locker room’s other leaders to make things work.

From a financial standpoint, Brown’s $12.6 million base salary for 2019, plus a $2.5 million roster bonus due in March, are palatable for a Lions team brimming with cap space, in need of a receiver and potentially in position to deal one currently on the roster.

Brown is known as one of the hardest workers in NFL, and he has two more reasonably priced years left on his deal, though he does turn 31 in July.

Maybe it’s Fairy Tale Land to think Brown could thrive with the Lions, especially now that the Lions want to run the ball first and seem allergic to throwing downfield. And maybe it’s unrealistic to think Patricia would keep his sanity dealing with Brown, who has taken multiple spins on reality TV and once posted Facebook video of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talking in the locker room. 

More from USA TODAY:

Steelers need to trade Antonio Brown, should talk with these 8 teams

But Patricia’s mentor, Bill Belichick, has been known to take chances on supreme talents (Randy Moss, Josh Gordon) in the name of winning, and given the current state of the Lions, adding Brown would bring some much-needed life to the organization.

Chances are this talk is moot. Chances are Brown stays in Pittsburgh, has a big year in 2019 and everyone goes on their merry way.

But if Brown becomes available, if he’s serious about wanting out of town and the Steelers have to unload him on the cheap, well, the Lions ought to inquire because he’s the type of player, even for a year or two, who could carry a team a long way.

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