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Antonio Brown: A Tampering Theorem

DEFINITION. The term tampering, as used within the National Football League, refers
to any interference by a member club with the employer-employee relationship of another club or any attempt by a club to impermissibly induce a person to seek employment with that club or with the NFL.



So, Antonio Brown is now a New England Patriot. [sigh]

This AB situation reminds me of the Brett Favre eventual move to the Minnesota Vikings. Favre always wanted to go with the Vikings, but Green Bay prevented him from joining their neighboring state rivals. So, by means of the New York Jets, Favre eventually made his way to his chosen home.

This Antonio Brown situation seems similar, in that, it seems he has always wanted to go to New England. Bill Simmons in an emergency podcast claimed that AB told him the best offenses that would fit his skill set were the Chiefs and the Patriots. That’s not particularly interesting, but it’s safe to assume that Brown, like most NFL WRs, would like to play for a contender and catch passes from Tom Brady.

I’m not alone in this. Many people are wondering about this conspiracy. Pat McAfee laid it out nicely on his show:

Player Empowerment.

Maybe Brown is just the knucklehead he seems, or maybe Brown, like many NBA players who learned how to push themselves out of contracts (Jimmy Butler, for example), figured out how to get out of his contract via his behavior.

But the NFL is not the NBA. It sort of goes without saying that there is rampant tampering in the NBA, but the NFL is more old-school. It’s a bit more conservative on this front, and it makes me wonder if there was something said, who said it, and how it was communicated.

Quid Pro Quo.

Many NFL teams, including my team, our team, the Buffalo Bills, would not have touched AB with a ten-foot pole after his insane (and potentially illegal) antics whilst on the Oakland Raiders. He had to know there was a risk of disenfranchising pretty much every fanbase, and even if he were to get signed, it would be for a tiny deal because there would not be much in the way of compensation, a he’s a huge risk.

So, was there an understanding between the Patriots and Brown should be manage to bully his way off the team? I don’t know.

Section 10 of the NFL’s Anti-Tampering Policy states,

10. Example of Tampering. Without limitation to other examples of tampering with another club’s player, the following scenario would constitute a violation of the Anti-Tampering Policy:

(i) A club’s representative, or a third-party intermediary of that club (Club A), is involved in a private meeting or conversation with a player (or his
representative) who is under contract to, or whose negotiating rights are
held by, another club (Club B); and

(ii) The League obtains substantiation that before, during or after the above
contact with the player, Club A has stated, publicly or privately, its interest
in obtaining his services (see “Public/Private Statements” above); and

(iii) Contract problems or other disputes subsequently arise between the player and Club B (for example, the player’s failure to report on time to Club B).

It would stand to reason that Brown and his agent Drew Rosenhaus would be concerned about the reputation fallout and losing over 30 million in guarantees from the Raiders with no promise of moving to a better team.

And who would fit this “better team” mold? He was unhappy at the Raiders and, so, in leaving, he’d need to be sure he could join a better team with an elite passing game, one where he will get his numbers. AB has always been about his own numbers. Which teams fit that?

  1. The Patriots. This is obvious.
  2. The Chiefs.
  3. The Packers, perhaps?
  4. The Saints (who had no interest in AB)
  5. The Rams, maybe?

Point is, there aren’t many teams that fit the offensive type Antonio Brown presumably desired. So, even in a reasonably open market, his bidders were few, as he has proven he will torpedo a team if he is not happy. Who wants to take on that risk?

When AB found out he was being released and had lost his 30 million plus in guarantees, this was his reaction:

Betting on himself.

Antonio Brown was set to make 14.6 million in base salary from the Raiders in 2019. The Patriots gave AB 10 million which can go all the way up to 15 million dollars this season.

Did AB bet on himself? And if he has a stellar year with a much more impressive offense, won’t he possibly be worth much more next offseason than the contract the Raiders gave him? In fact, looking at the Michael Thomas and Julia Jones contracts, it would absolutely dwarf the Raiders contract! Doesn’t that make sense?


This offseason has been as whacky as we’ve seen. Antonio Brown makes T.O. look like Dennis the Menace by comparison. People have feared for his mental health, and nothing seemed to make sense.

But when you consider the fact that he (if he does what he believes he can) will make as much money this year with a better team, and, if his numbers impress, will blow away the contract he got from the Raiders next offseason, it starts to make sense.

Did the Patriots, in some form or fashion let him know he wouldn’t lose any money this offseason if he got out of Oakland? Did they assure him of a position despite his erratic, and again, possibly illegal behavior?

This is all conjecture. Maybe we are moving into a new era in the NFL: the Super Teams, much like in the NBA. Maybe Antonio Brown is unhinged, and he’ll continue to act this way in New England, a much more “rigid culture,” as Skip Bayliss said, than Oakland.

Or maybe we’ll suddenly see a sane and reasonable AB for some reason. I don’t know if there was collusion. I have no evidence. But damn, something stinks in this situation …

What do you think?