Former NFL offensive lineman and podcast host Brian Baldinger stopped by to talk Niners Thursday on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. With sophomore receiver Deebo Samuel expected to be shelved 3-4 months with a broken left foot (he underwent surgery to repair a “Jones” fracture Thursday), the reigning NFC Champs could be in the market for a pass-catcher. One name that’s inevitably come up is Antonio Brown, a once-dominant receiver whose career has been derailed by endless scandals and erratic behavior both on and off the field.
AB has kept a relatively low profile of late, eschewing social media while training with mentor Deion Sanders. The 31-year-old’s talent has never been in question, but are the Niners desperate enough to subject their locker room to a well-documented malcontent who flamed out with three teams last year alone, each in spectacular fashion? Given their predicament with Samuel, Baldinger doesn’t think it would hurt to feel Brown out. “There’s no question he wants to come back and play,” said Baldinger. “He was the league’s best receiver before he just sort of collapsed and fell out of favor.”
Baldinger acknowledged there’s risk in signing a player of Brown’s immense baggage. The seven-time Pro Bowler burned every bridge on his way out of both Pittsburgh and Oakland before troubling allegations of sexual misconduct prompted his release from the Patriots last fall. Brown, who led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches in his last full season, was arrested and charged in January following an altercation with a delivery driver at his home in suburban Miami. That case was later resolved with Brown agreeing to two years of probation, a mandatory psych evaluation and 100 hours of community service in exchange for pleading no contest to felony battery.
“His debut in Oakland was a disaster. Would it be different under Kyle Shanahan, Jimmy Garoppolo and John Lynch?” asked Baldinger, host of Baldy’s Breakdowns on RADIO.COM. “Would he be a professional, would he be a great team player? I think you have to make the phone call and just have a conversation with him, just see where he’s at mentally.”
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has suggested Brown could land with a team in the relatively near future, though AB would almost certainly be facing league discipline for his arrest. “I don’t know where the league is at with him with some of the transgressions that are up against him right now,” Baldinger admitted. “You’ve got to decide, is this a guy you want in your locker room, that your locker room can handle, or is it somebody that you’re better off just not touching?”
San Francisco would no doubt face backlash for signing a potentially toxic player well-known for his disruptive tendencies. Not knowing the length of Brown’s likely suspension—or if the NFL will even accept him back after all he’s done—presents another obstacle. But if Brown, a Hall of Fame talent and arguably the most decorated receiver of the past decade, gives the 49ers their best chance to hoist a Lombardi Trophy, you can bet they’ll at least kick the tires on the controversial wideout.