© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Antonio Brown is fond of the 49ers. That has become very clear.
The seven-time Pro Bowl receiver is seemingly looking for a new home after requesting to be traded following a dispute with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Last week, Steelers owner Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette it would be “hard to envision” Brown back with the Steelers next season. Brown has since omitted “Pittsburgh Steelers” from his Twitter bio.
On Sunday night, Brown FaceTimed Jerry Rice and posted a screenshot of their chat with a goat emoji.
The following photo on Brown’s Instagram story is a painting conjoining him and Rice.
This comes after Brown posted a photo of Rice on his Instagram fewer than two weeks ago.
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) January 2, 2019
Brown has engaged with current and former 49ers players via social media throughout recent weeks.
Last month, 49ers record-breaking tight end George Kittle tweeted at Brown after news surfaced of his discontent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown reciprocated Kittle’s interest.
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) January 1, 2019
Last week, Joe Staley chimed in.
— Joe Staley (@jstaley74) January 11, 2019
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported the Steelers will field trade offers for Brown. The 49ers have long maintained that they will entertain any possibility to improve their team. Brown would more than qualify — he is the only receiver in NFL history to post six consecutive seasons with at least 100 catches.
The idea of Brown playing under Kyle Shanahan, who has helped numerous receivers enjoy their best career seasons, is a tantalizing prospect for 49ers fans. But Brown wouldn’t come cheap.
The 30-year-old is under contract through 2021, and he’s expected to make $36.4 in base salary over that span. Brown’s total cap hit is $22.165 million this year, but if the Steelers were to wait until after June 1 to trade him, they would have just $7.04 million in dead money. The 49ers are projected to have between $65 million and $70 million in cap space during free agency.
Here is Brown’s current contract situation, via Over the Cap:
The 49ers are one of several teams that could afford to pay Brown. The obvious unknown is whether they feel Brown is worth top dollar and likely sacrificing draft picks.
But at this point, Brown’s interest in the 49ers appears legitimate.