New Patriot Antonio Brown Lost $30 Million and Got What He Wanted, Probably

What a weird Saturday: we saw some top 25 teams upset, Army took Michigan to OT, oh, and the Raiders released Antonio Brown and he signed with the Patriots.

           Just when you thought the Pats couldn’t get any more heat, they sign the NFL’s biggest diva, and now they’re just about supernova. While there’s no hard evidence, it’s too easy to assume that this was all planned from the beginning, it’s too fishy, it’s too Bill Belichick, it’s too Patriots. Not to mention, AB seemed too happy to see $30 million in guaranteed money taken from him. But who knows, there’s no explaining most of what that guy does.  It’s hard to imagine anything ever comes of any tampering search, but if the League were to investigate, and if it did find some sort of tampering, the punishment would be substantial.

If the Patriots intentionally influenced AB to break his contract with the Raiders, they theoretically could be liable for intentional interference with contractual relations, also known as tortious interference. Under this tort, when one party intentionally damages another party’s contractual relationship with a third party, the violating party is liable for damages. Here, the Patriots could be liable to the Raiders for intentionally damaging the contract with AB. To this point, its not clear what those damages would be, mainly because the Raiders aren’t out any dead cap money with the AB release, but one can imagine that the damages could be for lost ticket sales or other marketing expenses. However, under the terms of the NFL Constitution Article 8.3A, League members are required to submit to arbitration, rather than litigation – a process that the Patriots are all too familiar with.

Will the NFL be compelled to investigate the odd series of events? It is possible that the Pittsburgh Steelers will lodge a complaint, given their efforts to make sure that AB DIDN’T end up in New England last spring. Those efforts, combined with the news that AB recruited social media expert assistance to get out of his deal with the Raiders fed the conspiracy theory that AB, Belichick and Company were behind this all along. That, at least in principle, would at the very least constitute tampering, a violation that the Patriots are all too familiar with, defined as:

 “Any public or private statement of interest, qualified or unqualified, in another club’s player to that player’s agent or representative, or to a member of the news media.’’ “Any interference by a member club with the employer-employee relationship of another club or any attempt by a club to impermissibly induce a person to seek employment with that club or with the NFL’’.

           It remains to be seen if the Steelers will register an official complaint. Regardless, the NFL’s reigning champs, and odds-on Super Bowl favorites just got better, and it’s on the back of a reported 1-year deal worth up to $15 million. The deal includes a $9 million signing bonus. It’s honestly surprising the troubled 31 year-old received so much guaranteed money, but it likely says more about what the patriots think about his ability to conform than anything. Following the Josh Gordon and Randy Moss models, New England has actually done an impressive job keeping distracting wide receivers well behaved. They’ll like to do the same with Mr. Big Chest.

           The deal is likely incentive driven, and looks, sounds, and smells like a prove-it deal. Ideally, New England takes the first half of the season to see if AB conforms to the “Patriot Way,” and if he does, they’ll sign him long term, assuming he plays well. It’s really a good deal for New England, which stacks an already strong receiving core with a top tier talent on a cheap contract. The 1-year deal also gives New England an out if Bill Belichick finds AB untamable.  

           In the end, the rich got richer, the Raiders got rid of a distraction, and AB will get to stare at his old team from across the field on Sunday Night Football. But – AB should probably read this contract to make sure he won’t lose that guaranteed money if he decides not to show up for team activities.

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