If not for Tom Brady vouching for him, Antonio Brown almost certainly wouldn't have ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And apparently, Brady helped to enrich his friend in Sunday's regular season finale.
Brady and Brown connected for a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of the Buccaneers' Week 17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but that may not have been the most consequential connection of the day.
When Brown signed a one-year/$1.66 million deal with the Buccaneers in late October, his deal included an incentive where he would trigger a $250,000 bonus if he racked up 45 or more receptions. As ESPN's Adam Schefter noted, Brady made sure he hit it in Week 17 by throwing him three shovel passes in the final two minutes of the game.
Brown's final of eight regular season games proved to be his best performance to date as a Buccaneer, as he caught 11 passes for a season-high 138 yards. The four-time All-Pro finished the season with exactly 45 catches for 483 yards. Brown hauled in four touchdowns, all of which came in the final three games of the regular season.
Brown took on a larger role Sunday, after Mike Evans left the game with a hyperextended left knee. FOX's Jay Glazer reported that an MRI showed no structural damage to his knee. ESPN's Jenna Laine confirmed that, but while she says the team is "hopeful" that Evans will be available to play on Wild Card Weekend, a source told her "it's too soon to tell." The Buccaneers will travel to face the winner of the NFC East at 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday evening.
For what it's worth, Brown has another incentive in his contract: if he plays in 35% of the team's snaps in a potential victory in the Super Bowl, he'll earn $750,000. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay will host Super Bowl LV.