The Pittsburgh Steelers have restructured Antonio Brown’s contract and have agreed to advance him $4 million of 2017 money. Brown, who was slated to make $6.25 million in 2016, will now make $10.25 million.
The reaction in Pittsburgh? Pretty much nothing.
“Almost no reaction here because I think we all expected it to happen,” Pittsburgh’s The Fan mid-day host Andrew Filliponi said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “The Steelers were not going to give him a whole new contract. They weren’t going to rip up the remaining two years on his deal and give him like a $100 million contract. So they did this compromise maneuver last year where they pushed money from the next year into the current year. For example, last year they took 2016 money and gave it to him in 2015, and that’s what they’re doing right now. So it’s great for now. He’s going to make $10 million or thereabouts a year. It makes him, I think he’s just barely in the top 10 among wide receivers in terms of what they’ll make this season.”
That’s still a bargain for Brown, whose numbers have risen almost across the board over the last three years. He’s gone from 110 to 129 to 136 catches. He’s gone from 1,499 to 1,698 to 1,834 yards. He also has 31 touchdowns over that span, including 23 over the last two seasons.
He is, quite simply, the best receiver in the game.
Despite the restructure, however, trouble could be brewing with Brown going forward.
“The real problem is going to be next year because it’ll be the final year of his deal,” Filliponi said. “With the money they’ve borrowed, he’ll be on the books for only like $4 million, and he won’t play next year for $4 million. So it’s going to put a real strain on coming up with a long-term number for him as far as his future with the Steelers goes beyond 2016. It’s going to be hard. They already paid Ben Roethlisberger like a franchise quarterback and to give Antonio Brown the biggest contract next year to a wide receiver will be a hard thing to do when you already have a $20 million guy on your roster.”
If Brown doesn’t get what he wants next year, a holdout is a distinct possibility.
“This year, he was not going to hold out,” Filliponi said. “The contract was around like $6 million and they were going to find the middle ground, the compromise move, to get him on the field and to placate him and to make him happy. Next year, there’s going to be no such bargain. If there was ever a time for a Steeler to hold out, it would be Brown next year if they don’t meet his demands – and I would expect his demands to be (high). A.J. Green is making $15 million a year. It’s the most in the NFL. Brown will ask for more than that. Demaryius Thomas got $35 million guaranteed. Antonio Brown will ask for more than that. He won’t play next year for $4 million. The Steelers are typically very conservative when it comes to big deals unless we’re talking about Ben Roethlisberger or Troy Polamalu, and Antonio Brown deserves to be in that conversation. It’s just that in the salary-cap era, how many players can you afford to pay close to $100 million at the same time?”