With NFL free agency less than three weeks away, Falcons fans are eager to see what Terry Fontenot plans on doing. The front office will have to make decisions on in-house free agents like Foye Oluokun, Cordarrelle Patterson, Younghoe Koo, Russell Gage, and others, as well as the prospects on the open market that could fill serious voids on the roster — Harold Landry and Steven Nelson for instance.
That isn’t even considering the potential trade scenarios for Calvin Ridley, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, and Matt Ryan — even if Ridley is the only serious candidate to be dealt. In short, this offseason could be quite eventful for Atlanta. Still, I do think the Falcons are capable of making a splash in a different medium by signing one of the most interesting characters in the NFL — Antonio Brown.
Yes, I’m officially advocating for the Falcons to sign the four-time All-Pro wideout, and I’m doing so for several reasons. First and foremost, the Falcons might have a serious need at the position if they do part ways with Ridley. AB is 33 years old, but he seems to be the type of athlete whose decline isn’t as profound as other aging players. He’s coming off a season where he caught 42 receptions for 545 yards and four touchdowns in just seven games. Brown is still obviously capable of being a productive piece for an offense.
Without Ridley, the Falcons would have to make some serious acquisitions to give Matt Ryan a decent arsenal of pass catchers. Brown would give the Falcons offense a veteran who can line up anywhere. Assuming the Falcons do trade Ridley, I’d expect them to come away from April’s draft with at least two receivers. They’ll need a veteran in the room to lead them. AB hasn’t necessarily been a model leader or citizen for that matter, but nobody would question his work ethic and production on the field.
Moving onto my next point, signing Brown also wouldn’t break the bank for Atlanta, who must find talent at a reasonable price. The Falcons aren’t going to find that without taking a few risks. Outside of Cordarrelle Patterson and maybe Fabian Moreau, the Falcons 2021 free-agent class was middling. The new regime has made it abundantly clear they value accountability, intelligence, and leadership — it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out AB doesn’t embody those characteristics. However, Brown’s price tag and associated issues are worth the risk.
And my last point, which may be the one I’m most passionate about: LET’S GET SOME ASSES IN THOSE SEATS! The Falcons have a serious issue with fan engagement. I went to several games this past season, and the attendance was shocking, to say the least. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was partially filled when the team was still in the playoff hunt, and even then, opposing teams’ fans were disproportionately represented compared to Falcons fans.
Signing AB would immediately give Falcons fans a reason to tune in on Sundays. Whether they believe the experiment will fail or not, fans will want to see what comes of the situation.
There are underlying issues with this take — on- and off-the-field concerns. Brown has made it difficult for nearly any team to handle his frequent outbursts, but I don’t care. This Falcons team isn’t close to winning at any level. This isn’t some Super Bowl contender whose cohesion and aspirations would be wrecked with the infusion of a divisive player like AB.
I’d even argue the Buccaneers did Brown wrong by making him play with a hurt ankle. Tom Brady and Bruce Arians’ fiery desire to win came at a cost — AB’s health. The Falcons, who have no past issues with disgruntled star receivers, could be a perfect landing spot for Brown.
Will Brown derail the culture Fontenot and Arthur Smith are trying to build? If he does, I’d argue the culture wasn’t resilient enough to begin with. The Falcons aren’t going to win anything in 2022, so Arthur Blank might as well do what he does best — ruin the team in the name of profiting.