INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert insists he would gladly welcome back Antonio Brown next season.
If things don't work out, Colbert has a plan for that, too.
Colbert addressed the rampant rumors about Brown's future Wednesday by saying he would only trade the Steelers' star receiver if he gets equal value in return — and preferably to a team outside the AFC North.
"Ideally, you'd want to trade him to somebody you'll never play but that can't happen because if you're good enough to get to the Super Bowl you'll have to play him anyway," Colbert said while answering a hypothetical question. "The less you would play him the better. But if a team you play twice a year comes through with the best compensation, you have to weigh that into the discussions. We haven't ruled out anybody."
What Colbert has ruled out is giving away one of the league's top playmakers at a bargain price — even as some believe Brown's price has continued to drop as he lobbies for a trade.
Just last week, after Brown met with Steelers president Art Rooney II, Brown wrote on Twitter that the two agreed it was time to part ways.
Colbert acknowledged Brown first asked whether he could post a photo with him next to Rooney.
"I took that to be an indication of where he is right now," Rooney said.
But with Brown still seeking to play elsewhere and running back Le'Veon Bell expected to leave in free agency after sitting out all of last season in a contract dispute, Colbert doesn't buy the notion the Steelers' locker room has become dysfunctional.
Rather, he continues to believe coach Mike Tomlin can help resolve any potential problems even as Colbert continues to listen to a growing list of trade offers. He declined to name any teams involved.
"Antonio Brown is one of the best players in the NFL and we'd like to have him on the team," Colbert said before addressing what he'd seek in a deal. "It would take significant compensation just to balance out the loss of a player of that value."
Brown has topped the 100-catch and 1,000-yard marks each of the past six seasons and has had at least 10 touchdown catches in five of those six seasons. The 30-year-old Brown led the league in receptions in 2014 and 2015, as well as yards receiving in 2014.