Late on Thursday evening, NFL fans were shocked to see a report of one of the biggest star trades in recent league memory. Antonio Brown appeared to be on the move, as the Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly were finalizing details on a trade that will send the All-Pro receiver to the Buffalo Bills. NFL Network's Ian Rapaport first reported the news and no details were announced about compensation heading from Buffalo.
However, over the next few hours multiple reports from other sources, including ESPN's Adam Schefter, indicated that the report of an imminent trade agreement is premature. The Bills are confirmed to be exploring such a trade, but Sone of Schefter's sources calls such a trade "unlikely" at this time, while another says "nothing is close" for now.
If this trade ends up happening, it would look unfortunate for Brown, who seemingly forced his way out of Pittsburgh but had hoped to land with a contender. The Bills have not won a playoff game since the 1990s, and they have a young quarterback with accuracy questions in Josh Allen. For Buffalo, the compensation question will be critical.
Interestingly, however, it appears that the Green Bay Packers were at least in conversations about acquiring Brown. ESPN's Diana Russini reports that the Packers were "interested" in acquiring Brown. How serious was that interest? Rapoport did not list them as one of the teams that “leapt to the forefront” of the trade discussion, but general manager Brian Gutekunst at least had some contact with the Steelers.
Brown, for his part, is not pleased with the news. He posted on his Instagram account Thursday night that the report of his going to the Bills is "fake news." However, he has no direct say in the matter as he is under contract with the Steelers. Perhaps the prospect of landing in Buffalo could alter Brown’s demand for a trade, but at this stage the deal remains on track for completion. Teams cannot make trades official until March 13, the first day of the new league year.
Brown has posted one of the most prolific six-year stretches of any receiver in NFL history this decade. Since 2013, he has averaged over 1,500 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns per season, missing just four games in that time. Those numbers give him a catch rate of 67%, a yards-per-reception average of 13.3, and a yards per game total of 99.4.
If he plays out his contract, Brown will earn just over $15 million in 2018, with $2.5 million of that coming in a roster bonus due on March 17th. He will then have base salaries of $11.3 million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021.
*This article has been updated to include new information and reports.*