Since 2014, only two players in the NFL have more touchdown catches than Mike Evans. One of those two is now Evans' teammate.
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially announced the signing of wide receiver Antonio Brown, whose 60 touchdown catches since 2014 are just one example of his on-field accomplishments, most of them achieved with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010-18. Brown most recently played for the New England Patriots, as a teammate of current Buccaneers' quarterback Tom Brady, in Week Two of the 2019 season.
The Buccaneers also announced the waiver of outside linebacker Quinton Bell from the active roster and the release of linebacker Tegray Scales from the practice squad.
Brown is serving an eight-game NFL suspension and will first be eligible to play when the Buccaneers face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football in Week Nine. Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Jason Licht had been considering the possibility of signing Brown since the team started dealing with a rash of injuries to its receiving corps.
"This is something Jason and I have been talking about every couple weeks, ever since the injuries to our other guys," said Arians. "When the time was right, we would see if we can pull the trigger and fit him into what we wanted to get done. And we'll see. If Antonio does what I think he's going to do, he's going to be fine."
The signing of Brown adds to an impressive arsenal of offensive weapons surrounding Brady, one that includes wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who ranked second and fourth in the NFL, respectively, in receiving yards per game last season. In his most recent full season, with the Steelers in 2018, Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdown grabs. His 60 touchdowns since 2014 are just ahead of Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins (55) and Evans (54).
Overall, Brown has played in 131 games with 103 starts and hauled in 841 passes for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns. Despite playing just that one game in 2019, Brown ranks second in the NFL since he entered the league in 2010 in receptions and receiving yards and third in touchdown catches, first among wideouts. The only players with more touchdown catches since 2010 are tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the former of whom is also now a teammate with the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers are off to a 5-2 start in 2020 and Brady has 18 touchdown passes and a 102.7 passer rating, but the offense has had to weather a series of injuries to their skill-position players. That includes a season-ending Achilles tendon rupture for tight end O.J. Howard as well as various leg injuries that have limited or sidelined Evans, Godwin, wide receivers Scotty Miller and Justin Watson and running backs Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy. With Evans and Godwin getting closer to full strength, the Buccaneers could soon field an incredibly dynamic three-receiver set with Brown in the mix. And they also now have more depth in case any of those players are unavailable for a game, as most of them were when the Bucs lost to Chicago, 20-19, in Week Five.
"It's an insurance policy," said Arians. "When we don't have Mike and we don't have Chris, why not have another Pro Bowl caliber player that's available and fits everything we need? So why not? We have good players, and you can't have enough of them. In Chicago, we had one of our top guys out there on one leg. Why not have another one?"
Brown first entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick out of Central Michigan with Pittsburgh in 2010 but by his second season had already emerged as a big-time playmaker with 1,108 receiving yards and 16.8 yards per catch. From 2013-18, Brown never recorded fewer than 101 receptions, 1,284 yards or eight touchdowns in a season, and he led the league in receiving yards in both 2014 (1,698) and 2017 (1,533). Brown also has a long history as a return man, averaging 9.5 yards on 186 punt returns and 25.0 yards on 47 kickoff returns. In addition to his 75 receiving touchdowns he has also scored five times on returns.
Brown has also appeared in 10 postseason games, adding 51 catches for 837 yards and four touchdowns. In his last four playoff games, in 2016 and 2017, he racked up 441 receiving yards and four touchdowns.