It will take a lot of money, a high draft pick, possibly a veteran player, major salary-cap contortion and perhaps an act of God for the Bears to get Antonio Brown.
So what’s the problem?
He’s the problem, many of you say. He’s a prima donna, the kind of me-first player who could bring drama to a six-month teeth cleaning, you say. He’s a locker-room cancer who would disrupt the excellent chemistry the Bears have built, you insist.
To which I say: Are you crazy? Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL. His work ethic is legendary. The moment he steps on a field, he makes any quarterback better.
He’s Brandon Marshall, you scream. Remember how the former Bears receiver reduced Halas Hall to an unpleasant soap opera?
I say: He’s much, much better than Marshall was, and — here’s the important part — unlike Marshall, he actually has played in a postseason game.
Six paragraphs in, and we’re already in a cage match over Brown, whom the Steelers plan to trade. That rapid an escalation might seem revealing: If he’s such a lightning rod, perhaps he’s not worth the effort or the potential migraine. And, remember, these are the Bears, who aren’t big on controversy. They serve three kinds of ice cream: vanilla, French vanilla and vanilla bean.
But if the idea is to win a Super Bowl, then they would be wise to do whatever it takes to get him. They have a championship defense, but they’re a long way from having a championship offense. We still don’t know how good Mitch Trubisky is, but it’s a guarantee he’d be a lot better if he were throwing to Brown. Brown led the league in receiving touchdowns (15) last season and in receiving yards (1,533) the season before.
What’s there not to like? That he has appeared on “Dancing with the Stars’’ and “The Masked Singer’’? Half the receivers in the league would drop everything to do that.
Acquiring him could be like the Bears’ acquisition of Khalil Mack last season. That turned out well for all involved, except the Raiders (so far).
How does Bears general manager Ryan Pace pull another rabbit out of his hat? He might need to offer the Steelers a 2021 first-round pick. The Bears traded their 2019 and 2020 first-round picks to the Raiders in the Mack deal. It might involve Pace sweetening his offer by throwing in a veteran. How about running back Jordan Howard, who doesn’t seem to fit coach Matt Nagy’s offensive vision?
It would take a very creative deal to get Brown, and it would take even more creativity to fit him under the salary cap.
For all that, the biggest difficulty might be in convincing the Bears and their fans that Brown’s personality is worth the trouble. He got into a nasty argument with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before a practice last season, and it led to the receiver missing the Steelers’ last regular-season game. He eventually demanded to be traded.
It was seen as a major red flag, but Roethlisberger can be difficult and has a habit of publicly criticizing teammates. That wouldn’t be an issue if Brown came to Chicago. The two things that stand out most about Trubisky is that he gets along with everybody and that he wouldn’t have a bad thing to say about anyone, even under threat of death.
Like everybody else these days, the Bears talk about locker-room “culture’’ as if it’s the most important ingredient in a team’s success. In his last six playoff games, Brown averaged 112.8 receiving yards and had four touchdowns. I’ll take that kind of culture any day.
I’m not politicking for bad boys. Brown has had some run-ins with the law, including an incident last year in which he was cited for reckless driving after going more than 100 mph in a 45 mph zone. But the Bears, for all their talk about the importance of character, signed troubled defensive lineman Ray McDonald four years ago. He repaid them with a domestic-violence arrest. They recently sent up a trial balloon to gauge what the public reaction might be to signing running back Kareem Hunt, who had been videotaped kicking a woman during an argument. Hunt eventually signed with the Browns.
I’m advocating for more flavor, personality and victories from the Bears. There’s nothing wrong with simply being good on the field, of course, and they certainly were that in 2018. But it would be fun to have someone who could both light up the scoreboard and talk-show phone lines.
I’m advocating for fewer trick plays and more weapons who can make Trubisky better.
An offense featuring Brown, Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen? Yes, please.
If you’re going to dream, dream big.