© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Shanahan didn’t take the bait.
Maybe there wasn’t bait to take.
Perhaps the prospect of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown joining the 49ers in 2019, after publicly courting their players and former stars throughout the offseason, hasn’t been met with mutual interest from the team’s brass. On Wednesday afternoon, at Indianapolis’ annual NFL Combine, Kyle Shanahan dodged questions regarding a potential partnership with Brown. While Shanahan didn’t rule it out, he didn’t give much reason to believe the 49ers will make a serious play.
Shanahan was asked if the 49ers are one of the five teams that have reportedly inquired about trading for the disgruntled receiver.
“I haven’t, not that I know of,” Shanahan said.
The question was the first of several aimed at squeezing every bit of information out of Shanahan as possible in regards to the Brown situation. The 49ers head coach continued to respond with generalities.
“Draft, free agency, and trade is an option for every single position on the team,” Shanahan said.
“We are in the market for any player that makes our team better at any position,” Shanahan said.
After all, the pieces had to fall perfectly into place for this to ever happen.
Brown is under contract with the Steelers through 2021, with a potential out after the 2020 season. While the Steelers have recently agreed with Brown that a trade is for the best, they aren’t going to trade a future Hall-of-Fame receiver, in the middle of his prime, for some change. It would take a bidder with a solid proposal and considerable cap space to acquire Brown. The 49ers will have about $70 million cap space when free agency opens, but there has been no reason to think they will make a play for him.
“I don’t see San Francisco, unless Jerry Rice gets hired as GM,” Peter King recently wrote in his “Football Morning in America” column. King, who is as plugged in as anyone, separately predicted that Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay, Oakland, and the New York Jets are the most likely landing spots.
Brown comes with red flags beyond his decision to sit out Week 17 or publicly demand a trade. Earlier this month, he was found guilty for reckless driving. That came exactly one week after he was reportedly involved in a dispute with a woman, though he was not arrested. In April, he was sued for supposedly throwing furniture off the balcony of his 14th-story apartment and nearly hitting a toddler.
Shanahan has reiterated the importance of building the franchise around high-character people. He didn’t say Brown didn’t fall into that camp, but Shanahan’s longest response about the Brown situation Wednesday touched on the peril of bringing in someone temperamental.
“You take that into account on everything,” Shanahan said. “That’s why you’d like to deal with people you know and have an idea on. We try to hold everyone accountable on our team. We are pretty consistent with that. There’s not much to talk about. If someone isn’t like that, we do have a problem with that.
“I don’t think anyone is good enough to deal with that. I know what you’re getting at, but there’s situations for everything, and you have to talk to people and find out. I don’t make any decisions based off what we all hear out there. You don’t know what’s true and what’s not. You wait to see what’s a reality and see what happens.”
Finally, Shanahan put the topic to rest after a reporter directly asked if he has interest in trading for Brown.
“I can not talk about another player who is not under contract with us,” Shanahan said.