Out of all of Tampa Bay’s remaining free agents, Antonio Brown’s future may be the hardest to predict. He made a handful of impact plays during his half-season with the team, but it’s really hard to gauge his market (in terms of interest) unless you’re the Ian Rapoports or Adam Schefters of the world.
We know Russell Wilson is interested, but he doesn’t make roster decisions. What if actual teams begin making calls to his agent, Ed Wasielewski?
The Bucs need to be prepared for life without Antonio Brown. Just in case something happens.
What could that look like?
Which Bucs receivers have the best shot to replace Brown?
Scotty Miller – The most likely option to step into a bigger role is the third-year wideout. “Scooter” instantly clicked with Tom Brady and led the team in yards through the midway point of the season. The former sixth-round pick was third amongst receivers on the team in snaps with a staggering 15.9 yards per catch. His touchdown before halftime in the NFC Championship arguably won the game for the Buccaneers and sent them to the Super Bowl. Look for Miller to continue his ascending role in the offense if Brown leaves .
Tyler Johnson – A fifth-round pick, Johnson played 311 snaps last year, which was the fifth-most on the team. He was targeted 17 times during the regular season and finished with 12 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He stepped up in the playoffs, making two critical catches against both the Saints and Packers. While he certainly is no Antonio Brown, the second-year wideout has all the tools to become a starting receiver in the NFL.
Who are some potential draft targets?
Amon-Ra St. Brown – Funny enough, the guy who could replace Antonio Brown’s role in the offense shares part of the same last name as him. The USC prospect and brother of Equanimous St. Brown is one of the most polished route runners in this class. With great hands and superb quickness, he should be able to make an immediate impact and would allow Miller to remain on the outside, where he excels. Brown would also provide insurance in case Godwin were to leave in free agency next year. He would most likely cost the Buccaneers a second-round pick, but could be the type of luxury pick Jason Licht talked about a few weeks ago.
Amari Rodgers – A potential mid-round prospect, the Clemson product stepped into a bigger role in 2020 and shined for the Tigers, evidenced by his 77/1,020/7 stat line. Paired with fluid route-running and reliable hands, Rodgers uses his stout frame well and is extremely physical. He’s also one of the best YAC receivers in the draft. Another area Rodgers excels in is returning punts, he finished top-10 in yardage in the school’s history.
What about free agency?
Larry Fitzgerald – After 17 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzgerald looks to be a true free agent for the first time in his career. Fitzgerald had three of the best years of his career under Bruce Arians. While his production has dipped in recent years, he still managed 54 receptions and 409 yards through 13 games last year. While there is speculation he may retire or perhaps play one season in Minnesota, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of playing with the Buccaneers for a final season. It’s a system he knows and he’s obviously comfortable in it. Oh, and there’s the possibility of playing for that long-deserved Super Bowl ring, as well. That always helps.
Demarcus Robinson – Robinson hits the free agent market one year after recording a career-high 45 catches and 466 yards. The former Gator is an efficient, speedy wide receiver who brought in 76 percent of his targets in 2020. Robinson made $2.6 million for the Chiefs last season and while he had a breakout year, the slow receiver market makes you wonder if he’s in for a raise or just more of the same.
Julian Edelman – Still under contract with the Patriots, the veteran wide receiver could be put on the trade block or cut with the recent additions the team has made. The fit is an obvious one. His chemistry and connection with Brady is seamless. There is the obvious transition in learning the offense, but Edelman is known to be one of the hardest workers in the NFL. He did convert from college quarterback and has a Super Bowl MVP under his belt, after all. Set to make only $2.8 million in 2021, Edelman likely won’t cost much against the cap or in terms of trade value.
If Brown does indeed walk, the Buccaneers should have a plethora of options available. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy to replace Antonio Brown, but the good news is that there are plenty of ways. As the Buccaneers continue to make moves this season towards their quest for back to back championships, the Brown situation will be one to monitor going forward.