Wednesday's NFL: WR Antonio Brown returning to Bucs on 1-year deal

Associated Press

Tampa, Fla. — Receiver Antonio Brown (Central Michigan) has agreed to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year contract that could be worth up to $6.5 million, including incentives, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement, which includes a $2 million signing bonus and a little more than $3 million guaranteed, had not been announced by the reigning Super Bowl champions.

Receiver Antonio Brown has agreed to return to the Buccaneers on a one-year contract that could be worth up to $6.5 million.

NFL Network was first to report the deal.

The Bucs were already assured of returning all 22 starters from their 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL title game in February. Bringing back Brown ensures Tom Brady will pursue an eighth Super Bowl ring with the entire “band” of offensive playmakers assembled around the 43-year-old quarterback last season.

General manager Jason Licht made good on a promise to keep the team together by placing the franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin, signing linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David to multi-year contracts, and bringing back tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on one-year deals.

Brady and left tackle Donovan Smith contributed to the effort by signing salary-cap- friendly contract extensions that freed money to help Licht get it done.

The agreement with Brown comes after the receiver, who joined the Bucs midway through last season after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, settled a civil lawsuit filed against Brown by a former trainer.

Licht was asked last week if Brown resolving the civil dispute would improve the chances of the 32-year-old receiver coming back.

“We’ve had discussions through the offseason, and as you can tell we’ve put an emphasis on bringing back players from last year that contributed to our success, and he would be no different,” the GM said. “We’ll continue to have talks and see where it goes.”

A four-time All-Pro, Brown had 45 receptions for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight regular-season games in 2020. He caught a TD pass in the Super Bowl, capping a postseason in which he had eight catches for 81 yards and two TDs.

In 139 regular-season games over 11 seasons with Pittsburgh, New England and Tampa Bay, Brown has amassed 886 career receptions for 11,746 yards and 79 TDs.

Panthers trade Bridgewater

Drew Lock didn’t have to wait around for the NFL Draft to get the serious competition for his starting job that new general manager George Paton has been promising for months.

Paton traded a sixth-round pick in this weekend’s draft to the Panthers in exchange for veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater.

The Broncos own the ninth overall selection Thursday night and have had their eyes on several of the quarterback prospects rated a notch or two below Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson, who are expected to go 1-2 to the Jaguars and Jets, respectively.

Bridgewater became available when the Panthers traded for former Jets QB Sam Darnold three weeks ago.

Bridgewater went 4-11 as the Panthers’ starter last year and struggled to win close games down the stretch. He completed 69.1% of his passes, throwing 15 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

Those numbers are better than Lock’s.

The third-year pro from Missouri tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions in 13 starts and his passer rating ranked 32nd in the NFL last season. He was 4-9 overall with 16 touchdown throws and is 8-10 in two years as Denver’s starter.

Extra points

The Giants picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract for running back Saquon Barkley.

The 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year is recovering from a torn right ACL in Week 2 of last season. He is hopeful to be ready for training camp this summer.

Barkley now will earn a fully guaranteed $7.217 million in 2022.

… The Colts made the obvious move by exercising the fifth-year option on perennial All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson’s rookie contract.

Nelson, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 draft, has started all 48 games at left guard for the Colts and is the first offensive lineman since the 1970 merger to earn All-Pro honors each of his first three seasons. Nelson joined Barry Sanders, Keith Jackson, Lawrence Taylor and Earl Campbell as the only players to achieve the feat.