Carolina Panthers

Panthers trade for Antonio Brown? Where do we begin? Maybe with ‘not in real life.’

Sometimes this job requires me to be the bad guy. Sometimes, I have to take the fun out of “speculation season” in order to give readers a realistic view of the Carolina Panthers. Sometimes it’s not enjoyable.

This isn’t one of those times.

The idea of Antonio Brown playing for the Panthers is fun for your Madden franchise but realistically, that’s all it’ll ever be. So despite at least one national sports writer urging Carolina to trade for Brown, pump the brakes on your custom jersey order.

Let’s first break down why Brown — one of the best wide receivers ever — is even being discussed as a trade target: His on-field production couldn’t mute his diva behavior.

While Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger deserves his share of the blame for how the reported spat between the two was handled, only one player refused to play in a must-win regular season finale and left the stadium at halftime because of it — Brown.

That could be an isolated incident but his former teammate, ESPN analyst Ryan Clark, called Brown a “monster” ever since signing his first big contract. I’ve only been around the Panthers’ locker room for a few months, but the only receiver who’s even remotely displayed these qualities is likely on his way out of town. If Carolina were to bring in a player essentially exiled from the only team he’s ever known, it’d contradict everything this front office has done over the past several years to build its strong locker room.

Speaking of the Panthers’ front office, which has holes to fill at safety, cornerback, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, running back and (possibly) quarterback, in no particular order — how much of the Panthers’ projected $25 million of cap space are they willing to spend on one player? Brown’s base salary alone for the 2019 season is a little more than $12 million. Can the Panthers afford to pay Brown and still address their other needs?

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They won’t have to worry about shelling out money to their first round pick if they trade for the embattled receiver. If Amari Cooper netted the Raiders a first-rounder, what will Antonio Brown cost? Remember that time you said the Panthers needed to get younger moving forward? That’s really hard to do without draft picks.

All these concerns come to mind before we even touch on what his on-field impact will be. We’re not even sure if the Panthers’ $20 million man — Cam Newton — will be healthy enough to throw Brown the ball in 2019.

We don’t know if Newton will ever be healthy enough to utilize Brown in the vertical passing game.

And what happens to D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel? Carolina didn’t spend a first- and second-round pick, respectively, on these guys to watch them fade behind Brown’s star. Both Moore and Samuel fit perfectly into what the Panthers and Norv Turner want to do will make just $5 million more over the course of their combined contracts than Brown’s base salary in 2019.

It’s fun to play the “what if” game — I get it. But that’s what video games are for. If you can make an Antonio Brown trade work in Madden, go for it. Let me know how it works out. (That’s not sarcasm, I genuinely enjoy video games).

Just don’t expect it to happen in real life.

Marcel Louis-Jacques covers the Carolina Panthers for the Charlotte Observer, keeping you on top of Panthers news both on the field and behind the scenes. He is a 2014 graduate of Arizona State University and grew up in Sacramento, California.