Antonio Brown won't be coming to the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo Bills General Manager Brandon Beane ended hours of speculation with a statement that acknowledged the team had "positive discussions" with the Pittsburgh Steelers about trading for the All-Pro wide receiver. However, he added that it "didn't make sense for either side."
The Brown-to-Buffalo chatter began Thursday night when NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that a trade was "close to being done." More details emerged overnight that revealed this wasn't the case.
Moments after Rapoport's initial report, Brown commented on Instagram that it was "fake news." Another reporter, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, reported information from two sources who told him a trade wasn't close to being finalized and that it was "unlikely" that a deal would get done.
Before we get to the Bills-Brown side of this drama, let's assess the reporting. This is a textbook example of choosing to be first instead of being right. It's clear the Bills and Steelers were talking — Beane confirmed that fact. But it's obvious that they weren't as close — or close at all — as Rapoport suggested.
These NFL "insiders" should stop parroting what they're told every time an NFL source calls them or sends them a private message. A little more leg work by Rapoport would've revealed that this wasn't as close as he initially reported.
The main obstacle, it seems, was Brown. He didn't commit to showing up in Buffalo if a trade was finalized, so that's where things ended. You can line up possible compensation and check all of the boxes, but if the guy you want isn't going to show up? There's no point in moving forward. The Bills walked away, and rightfully so.
In the aftermath of this rumored trade, the same anti-Buffalo messages have been posted or tweeted by those on the outside, a vast majority of whom haven't spent any significant time (or any time at all) in New York's second-largest city. Despite what these aspiring travel agents say, there's plenty to do in Buffalo and it's not a city defined by snowfall.
The winner in this whole hours-long fiasco? The Bills. Beane expressed interest in Brown and attempted to trade for the top wide receiver in the NFL. That sends a positive message to the fan base that the team will be active in free agency. Beane knows there will be pressure to win this year after a mostly forgettable 2018 campaign. Getting involved in the Brown sweepstakes tells the fans that the Bills' front office is serious about winning, and soon.
Brown is a great talent. He should be a Hall of Famer when his career is over. But he isn't worth this hassle. If he didn't want to be in western New York, it was the right decision to move on. Additional reports indicate there may not be a lot of options for the Steelers. Other teams are interested, but it's not clear if Brown is willing to play for those clubs. He wants out, but he wants to dictate where he goes. That's not how this works.
The Bills will be fine. Brown will land where he wants, or retire. And hopefully Rapoport, along with the other NFL "insiders," take some time to reflect on what happened here and how they can improve their process. When your whole operation relies on unnamed sources, it's only a matter of time until you get burned. When that happens, you should change the way you report. The goal should be to obtain the most accurate information and relay that when you're confident in your reporting. You shouldn't regurgitate tidbits sent your way from club and NFL "sources."