- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Washington Redskins lack star power. If they want to change that, one of the NFL’s biggest stars just became available.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will explore trading Antonio Brown after meeting with the star wide receiver Tuesday. Both sides, Brown tweeted, agreed “it is time to move on.” The 30-year-old has spent nine seasons with the Steelers, but a frayed relationship led to Brown demanding a trade.

Routinely dubbed as offseason champions in owner Daniel Snyder’s early tenure with the team, the Redskins acquiring Brown would be the exact type of move to regain that title. He certainly would provide a jolt to a floundering fan base.

But the risk involved could be exactly why the Redskins stay away.

Washington has a variety of needs this offseason. The Redskins desperately could use a playmaker like Brown, but they also have a big unanswered question at quarterback with Alex Smith still injured. And the cost to acquire Brown would likely be a lot: Wideouts Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper both fetched first round picks last year. Would the team be willing to give up the 15th pick?

There’s also a matter of possibly having to pay Brown. In a video posted on his Instagram, Brown said Tuesday he’s not playing without guaranteed money.

Brown signed a five-year, $72.5 million extension in 2017. The deal doesn’t have any guaranteed money remaining, which would allow teams to easily move on if desired. Brown wants that to change.

“If your squad out there want to win and your squad want a hungry wide receiver who’s the best in the whole world, someone hit my phone,” Brown said. “Tell them I ain’t doing no unguarantees. I ain’t even gonna play myself no more for this NFL, you heard.”

The team that trades for Brown wouldn’t be under an obligation to negotiate a new deal with Brown — especially with three years on the contract remaining. But they face the risk of him holding out or retiring if they don’t.

Complicating matters, the Redskins have a projected $18 million in cap space to spend this offseason — though they can free up additional space by cutting players. Brown’s contract is affordable — he’s scheduled to make $12.6 million in base salary — but that could change if he demands a raise.

Regardless, Brown’s attitude could scare teams away. Over the last few months, he has publicly feuded with Ben Rothlisberger — telling fans recently in a question-and-answer session the quarterback has an “owner’s mentality.”

In Week 17, Brown reportedly threw a football at Rothlisberger in practice and stormed off. Brown did not play that Sunday, leading coach Mike Tomlin to suggest the wide receiver quit on his team.

When Brown does take the field, however, he’s arguably the best receiver in football. Drafted in the sixth round in 2010, Brown has had six straight seasons of finishing with more than 1,000 yards. In 2018, Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns.

That type of production would be welcomed for the Redskins. Last season, their top three wideouts — Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson and Jamison Crowder — combined for just 1,182 yards on 93 receptions. Richardson and Crowder missed large portions of the season, and Doctson recorded an underwhelming 532 yards.

The Redskins undoubtedly need to upgrade at the position. And if they want to make a splash, Brown could be the solution — if they’re willing to take the risk. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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