Bucs May Not Return Antonio Brown, Insiders Say

Antonio Brown

Getty Antonio Brown continues to be sidelined with an injured ankle.

Bruce Arians saying that Antonio Brown just needs to pass a physical doesn’t hold enough water for a couple of NFL insiders.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach told Pewter Report on Tuesday that Brown hasn’t re-signed yet because “he has to pass the physical” and that he got a knee scope on Tuesday. Brown already agreed to re-sign with the Bucs, his agent announced on April 28.

“He’s getting knee surgery yesterday? May 18, he’s getting knee surgery,” Mike Florio questioned on Pro Football Talk on Wednesday. “Is this knee surgery from the knee injury that knocked him out for part of the playoffs? Is this some knee injury that happened after the fact? Has he already had a physical that he failed that resulted in him going to get the knee surgery?”

Knee surgery seems to be holdup in Antonio Brown signing | Pro Football Talk | NBC SportsAntonio Brown reportedly agreed to a new deal with the Buccaneers a day before the NFL draft. But weeks later, the team has yet to announce the signing. Mike Florio and Chris Simms dive into what could be the holdup. #NBCSports #ProFootballTalk #AntonioBrown » Subscribe to NBC Sports: youtube.com/nbcsports?sub_confirmation=1 » Watch Pro Football Talk live…2021-05-19T17:07:39Z

Florio added that “this never happens when you have a three-week lag between” announcing the signing and getting a physical. Florio also noted that a team does an ‘exit physical’ right after the season for players. Co-host Chris Simms, who played in the NFL, noted how physicals typically work for re-signings versus a new player coming to a team.

“What’s odd is that it doesn’t go down like that when you’re signing with a team you’re already on,” Simms said. “Even when you’re a free agent, and you’re going to re-sign with that team, that team has been keeping up with you medically because the doctors are there, ‘we checked the knee’ and ‘we do those things.’ Usually, you end up getting surgery by that team, and then they start going, ‘hey, we’re going to re-sign you, let’s do one more checkup before we re-sign you on the day to make sure it’s OK.'”

Florio said they asked both the Bucs organization and Brown’s agent, Ed Wasielewski, two questions — “did Brown pass his exit physical” and did Brown fail another physical after the announced deal. Florio reported that the Bucs and Wasieleski declined to share.

On the other hand, Bucs general manager Jason Licht told JoeBucsFan.com’s Ira Kaufman that he anticipates Brown signing soon, but didn’t reference Brown’s knee issue directly per the website’s interview transcript.

“No, not concerned. The plan all along is to have him come in — I think he is coming in Monday to sign,” Licht told Kaufman.

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Timing of Brown’s Announced Signing a Clue?

Florio noted the timing of Wasielewski announcing Brown’s plans to re-sign the day before the NFL Draft, and the Bucs trading up in the fourth round to nab wideout Jaelon Darden needs to be considered.

“A cynic would say that the Bucs struck the deal with Brown the day before the draft so that other teams wouldn’t think they’d be looking to draft another receiver,” Florio wrote. “The fact that they gave up a sixth-round pick to move up to get Darden shows that they definitely were targeting the position.”

Does Bucs quarterback Tom Brady’s reactions provide a clue to Florio’s and Sims’ questioning? When Brown posted on Instagram about rejoining the Bucs, Brady commented on it, “we are getting back to work” but didn’t say anything further on social media about Brown. After the Bucs picked Darden, Arians told the NFL Network that Brady is “really excited about getting Jaelon Darden.”

Notably, Darden officially signed with the Bucs on Wednesday, the fourth rookie from the 2021 draft class to sign per Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith. Darden could bring the Bucs value as a kicker returner in addition to receiving depth as The Athletic’s Greg Auman noted.

“Now that they have acquired Darden, do they really need Brown,” Florio questioned.

Brown isn’t officially on the roster, as Florio noted, until signing the new contract. Florio wrote that “it’s fair to consider the possibility” that the Bucs might not want Brown back until he passes a physical and re-signs.

Hint from Arians?

Tampa isn’t dying for receiver help with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson on the roster. All of them had key catches in the postseason let alone the regular season.

Florio and Simms likewise speculated that the Bucs might just move on from Brown with all of that depth. Florio noted Arians’ comment on Pewter Report about receiver depth.

“Yeah this is pretty special,” Arians told Pewter Report. “Just to get dressed on Sunday, you better be a hell of a special teams player, too. That sixth spot, man, there’s going to be some great competition.”

Whether or not Brown will be part of the receiver competition in training camp likely remains unknown at best until next Monday.

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