Deebo Samuel’s broken foot has made many 49ers fans look far and wide for a potential replacement in the lineup if the second-year wideout isn’t available for the start of the regular season. 2020 draft picks Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings likely will get additional opportunities in training camp if Samuel remains out, but San Francisco also could look outside the organization for some help in the receiving corps.
NBC Sports Bay Area 49ers analyst Donte Whitner has an idea, how about free agent and four-time All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown?
“I would grab him now, I’m telling you,” Whitner told 95.7 The Game on Friday. “You sit down with him. You sit down with him. He’ll even do a workout, I’m telling you, I know him.
“He acquired the success that he had and then he couldn’t handle it a little bit. So he had to take a step back. This has humbled him, and he’s taken a step back. And he’s hungrier than ever, I don’t know why anybody would not be having him in the building right now.”
[RELATED: 49ers’ five best statistical offensive seasons by position since 2010]
Whitner also noted that Brown “is a personal friend” of his.
Brown’s talent is undeniable, as he led the NFL in touchdown receptions in his last full season in 2018, and finished with 1,297 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But there’s a reason he hasn’t been brought in by a team in many months. He’s had controversial and dramatic exits from his last three NFL teams. He refused to play in the Steelers’ final regular-season game in 2018 and was traded to the Raiders that offseason for just a third-round and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Upon joining the Raiders, Brown froze his feet, refused to play in an NFL-approved helmet, hurled a racial slur at his general manager during an altercation on the practice field, privately recorded a phone call with head coach Jon Gruden that he later published on social media and then demanded his release from the organization.
Being picked up by the New England Patriots soon after didn’t help his cause much. Brown was accused of sexual assault by multiple women and after just one game in a New England uniform, was unceremoniously released by the team.
Even if an NFL team signs Brown, he likely wouldn’t be able to suit up right away.
“Of course, Brown can’t play for anyone until a trio of pending Personal Conduct Policy investigations have concluded,” ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio wrote in May. “From last September’s lawsuit alleging sexual assault and rape to alleged harassment of another female who made claims against him to SI.com to an incident with a moving-truck driver that resulted in an arrest and multiple charges, Brown could be facing a significant suspension before he’s permitted to play again.”
Turning 32 on July 10, Brown doesn’t have many prime years remaining. Especially for a 49ers locker room that prides itself on culture, adding someone with such a narcissistic past only stands to cause problems. The 49ers are all about team first, and Brown never has shown the same motivation.
He’s a world-class talent, but also a world-class distraction. Don’t expect general manager John Lynch to go anywhere near Brown in free agency, no matter what injuries befall the 49ers’ wide receivers.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
49ers ‘should grab’ free agent Antonio Brown, Donte Whitner believes originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area