I should begin this article by stating for the record that I think fan (and some writer) concerns about Antonio Brown potentially becoming a bigger distraction than he has been to this point, simply because he has the contract he’s wanted for the past couple of years, are overblown. Brown is highly competitive and works as hard as anyone ever has at his craft. He’s not going to sit back and rest on his laurels now that he’s gotten the big money.
That said, Steelers contracts are typically structured so that anyone but Ben Roethlisberger can be released after a year or two with minimal financial impact.
How do they do that, you ask? They only guarantee the signing bonus on their contracts and nothing else.
Brown’s contract contains roster bonuses in years two & three that if not paid by the 5th day of the league year will void his contract. The Steelers could, for example, decide that Brown wasn’t worth as much as he is scheduled to make, as soon as after year one of this deal, and simply not pay his roster bonus, making him a free agent.
Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is that as soon as a players cap hit exceeds his dead money, he can be released. It comes down to the dead money, while something you don’t like against your cap, costing you less against it than the player’s scheduled hit. In AB’s deal, that happens after year one.
Year One, Antonio Brown makes $19,910,000 in cash. The remaining bonus proration from his 2012 deal bumps his cap hit to $13,618,334 and if he were for some reason released before June 1st, 2017 (not plausible, but let’s look anyway) he would count $27,908,334.
Year Two, however, it gets interesting. Let’s say, again far fetched hypothetical situation, that Brown robs a liquor store and kills someone with the getaway car and the Steelers decide to allow his contract to void by not exercising the year two option (not cutting a check for his roster bonus).
They can do so. While the thought of $15.2 million dollars worth of dead money yet to be accounted for isn’t appealing, Brown’s cap hit is scheduled to be $17.675 million anyway. Brown being off the team in 2018 actually creates $2.475 million in cap space.
Year Three, it becomes even simpler. Brown’s scheduled cap hit is $18.925 million. The dead money is $11.4 million. Not paying his roster bonus and allowing his contract to void creates $7.525 million in cap space.
As you can see, at the end of the day, Antonio Brown got his money. But, the Steelers also got their security. As an added bonus is Brown becomes a free agent due to his contract voiding, the Steelers would be in line for a compensatory pick the following year.
Anxious fans can rest easy! The Steelers already thought of all of those things that worry you about AB’s deal.
Photo Credit: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette
Contract schedule per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk