What the New England Patriots Should Do With Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown Patriots
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 30: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Antonio Brown is back in the news, and this time it’s for a lot more than just a helmet. One of Brown’s former trainers filed a suit against Brown accusing the four-time All-Pro of sexual assault and rape. The New England Patriots were reportedly unaware of Brown’s impending suit when they signed him on Monday, but now they face the difficult task of figuring out what to do with a player this talented.

This is obviously a delicate situation and, as of this posting, it’s unclear whether Brown is truly in the wrong or is he’s being extorted. Fantasy football expert @incarceratedbob revealed some of Antonio Brown’s direct messages from three days ago. In those messages, an unnamed woman claims to have audio and texts proving that Brown’s accuser is falsifying the claims in an attempt to extort Brown. The Patriots are going to need to make a decision on how to handle the Antonio Brown situation, and they have a few options to weigh.

How New England Patriots Should Handle the Antonio Brown Suit

Commissioners Exempt List

The most obvious option is that the Patriots or the NFL throw him on the Commissioner’s Exempt list. For those unfamiliar, this list essentially allows a team to earn a roster exemption for a player in “unusual circumstances.” Brown’s situation certainly fits that bill, and the Patriots would likely get approval if they asked the league.

This wouldn’t be the first time a team has used the exempt list on a player in Brown’s situation. Greg Hardy, Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson, Josh Brown, and Reuben Foster have all been on the list when dealing with respective legal issues. Doing this would give New England an extra roster spot while keeping Brown away from team activities. If on the exempt list, New England could comfortably sit back, wait for the situation to play out, and make a move once the situation gains some clarity.

The Patriots Other Options for Antonio Brown

The Patriots are likely to use the Commissioner’s Exempt list, but there are other options on the table. New England claimed to be unaware of Brown’s charges when they signed him, but it’s hard to believe that claim. As previously mentioned, @incarceratedbob knew the suit was coming back on September 7th. It’s hard to imagine that Twitter knew more about Brown’s legal status than a billion-dollar organization, so New England probably believes Brown can prove his innocence. Additionally, this is a civil case, not a criminal one, which means Brown is eligible to keep playing.

Brown’s direct messages show an exchange with a woman who claims to have audio and texts which prove the accuser is simply trying to extort Brown. If that’s true, this evidence should surface in the coming days and effectively clear Brown’s name. If that happens, the Patriots can put Brown back on the field without having to worry about any negative repercussions.

Barring a ridiculously quick turnaround, Brown shouldn’t play in Week Two against Miami. It’s hard to imagine the situation resolving itself that quickly, even if the audio and texts really do exist. Anything beyond that point is still on the table. If Brown can effectively clear his name, New England should let him back on the field for Week Three. However, if this evidence doesn’t surface or if it’s not as exonerating as implied, then New England can’t have him play.

Try to Be Better

Unless the evidence was absolutely overwhelming, most teams would turn a blind eye when dealing with a player this talented. We’ve seen this around the league with cases like Tyreek Hill, Greg Hardy, Ray Rice, and Kareem Hunt. However, New England should aim to be better. If there’s any question as to whether Brown really did this, he can’t take the field as a Patriot. The best course of action is to wait for the evidence to arrive and then play it by ear.

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