The league apparently had hoped to kick the can all the way through the postseason regarding the status of receiver Antonio Brown. The Saints apparently may keep that from happening.
If the Saints sign Brown, who is working out for the team today, the league will have to place Brown on the Commissioner Exempt list in order to keep him off the field in the postseason. It’s believed that no team has signed Brown because of the possibility/probability that the league would take such action, forcing his new team to pay him to not play while an investigation regarding sexual assault allegations continues. However, the league has declined to comment publicly on whether that would be the outcome.
The circumstances have resulted in a three-month unpaid suspension for Brown, who ultimately has no rights to force the league to finish its investigation or to make a decision as to his status in accordance with any specific timeline. Whether intended or not, it’s an unfair outcome for any player; even if he’s ultimately cleared by the league, the mere existence of the investigation (despite no arrest or criminal charges) has operated to keep Brown out of the league far longer than most players who ever have been suspended under the Personal Conduct Policy.
For the Saints (or any other team that is entering the playoffs), the prospect of signing Brown now entails zero financial risk. If he’s placed on paid leave, the pay will be coming not from the team but from the league-wide playoff pool. So it gives the Saints dibs on Brown and forces the league to deal with a situation it would rather ignore.
The move also would give the Saints an incredibly viable alternative to Michael Thomas. Indeed, in final game ever with the Steelers, Brown caught 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints in New Orleans.
The chances of Brown actually playing for the Saints in the postseason remain slim. The most significant development for now is that the Saints have broken ranks with the league, and the Saints may force the league to do something it surely preferred not to do.