Trade, cut or keep Antonio Brown: Explaining the Steelers’ options for 2019 offseason | NFL

After most NFL common seasons, we’re discussing the Steelers’ possibilities of advancing within the playoffs. This 12 months, with the Steelers out of the postseason, all the main target is on the off-field drama surrounding broad receiver Antonio Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. 

Right here we lay out all of the monetary ramifications related to these two gamers.

How a lot will the Steelers save by reducing Antonio Brown?

If Brown is reduce, the Steelers might want to account for a minimum of $21.12 million on the wage cap.

This useless cash is from a $19 million signing bonus paid to Brown in 2017, plus a $12.96 million wage conversion paid to Brown in 2018 that was meant to assist the Steelers with their wage cap. The $19 million was prorated over 5 years, and the $12.96 million over 4 years. Each have three years of proration remaining, and the Steelers must account for all of it no matter whether or not Brown is on the crew subsequent 12 months.

MORE: Big Ben reportedly blasted Antonio Brown in Steelers meetings

If Brown is launched, the crew will save $1.045 million in cap room. At the very least $495,000 of that will be offset by whomever takes his place on the roster, so the efficient cap financial savings are nil.

By way of money, the Steelers would save $15.2 million by releasing Brown in March. From a wage cap perspective, although, that is cash that will be saved for the longer term.

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Because the above chart illustrates, the Steelers would save $15.125 million by reducing Brown now reasonably than in 2020, and $26.425 million by reducing him now reasonably than in 2021.

The sort of evaluation is smart for an underperforming/declining participant. If a crew has an 80 p.c probability of reducing a participant in 2020, it would as effectively simply do it now even when it seems unhealthy on the cap.

Brown isn’t that kind of participant, although. The chances of Brown being reduce for soccer causes in 2020 usually are not good, so there isn’t any must speed up the method; he’s definitely worth the contract he’s being paid.

If the Steelers reduce Brown, it is going to be as a result of they suppose there’s irreparable injury between the WR and the group; they might not give it a shot in 2019 solely to chop him in 2020. The Steelers are both in or out.

MORE: Brown should blame himself for not making All-Pro, not Peter King

Is the Steelers’ wage cap a priority?

Sure and no. Usually, the wage cap is not a barrier for strikes like this. Salaries haven’t stored up with the rising cap, and groups have discovered to work the system higher to soak up cap hits like this. The one true protections gamers have anymore are absolutely assured salaries, and groups just about solely peg these to years of anticipated contributions.

With that mentioned, Browns cap hit could be a ridiculous quantity. The best one-year cap cost we now have seen is $19.three million for Peyton Manning in 2012, and that was offset partly by the truth that the crew declined an choice on him.

To place issues in perspective, the Steelers have had a complete of about $31 million in useless cash mixed throughout three seasons. Taking over such a giant cost for Brown could be fully in opposition to their method of doing enterprise.

Can the Steelers use a post-June 1 reduce on Antonio Brown?

A June 1 reduce permits a crew to control the accounting for useless cash on a contract. On this situation, the Steelers would launch Brown on the primary day of free company with the June 1 designation. From the beginning of free company to June 1, Brown would nonetheless depend on the Steelers’ wage cap at $22.165 million — his full cap cost. On June 2, Brown could be faraway from the books as an “lively” participant and solely have his prorated cost depend in opposition to the cap, which is $7.04 million. That might result in a cap financial savings of $15.125 million in 2019.

However don’t get too excited. The opposite $14.08 million would merely transfer to 2020. So all of the June 1 does is delay the inevitable.

MORE: Le’Veon Bell, Chiefs becoming a perfect, necessary match for 2019

A June 1 reduce sometimes is used when a crew can’t take care of the cap cost of releasing a participant due to different cap-related points. It permits the crew to just about spend proper up the cap in March, when free company is in full swing, figuring out it has a giant cushion coming in June.

As a result of the Steelers normally usually are not large spenders in free company, and since their cap (whereas not nice) is just not problematic, they may not profit from a June 1 designation … apart from from a psychological standpoint in not seeing the $20 million quantity for one 12 months.

Additionally price noting: In 2020, there may very well be some totally different guidelines relating to useless cash, and a few groups may not wish to push an excessive amount of into the longer term.

What about an Antonio Brown commerce?

A commerce and a reduce are handled similar on the cap until the participant has assured salaries remaining in his contract. Brown has none.

So reduce or commerce, the associated fee for Brown is $21.12 million on the cap.

Can the Steelers designate Antonio Brown a June 1 commerce?

No. The June 1 designation can solely apply to gamers who’re launched. A crew can nonetheless get the good thing about post-June 1 accounting on a commerce, but it surely must make the commerce on June 2 or later. That’s problematic for a number of causes.

The principle subject: Brown has a bonus due if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the league 12 months. That fee then turns into the Steelers’ accountability and counts on their cap no matter whether or not he’s traded. So the useless cash complete strikes to $23.62 million, and the quantity for 2019 as much as $9.52 million. That strikes the financial savings all the way down to $12.625 million reasonably than $15.125 million.

MORE: Best fits for Le’Veon Bell in 2019 free agency

The 2 groups within the commerce may keep away from this by renegotiating Brown’s contract to delay the bonus till later within the 12 months (say coaching camp), however that will require it to be assured, probably with language that doesn’t void the assure if he doesn’t present as much as exercises, necessary OTAs, and many others.

There additionally isn’t any profit for Brown to delay his launch into the summer season. He would have one of the best alternatives to earn a giant contract in March, not July. So he mustn’t work with Pittsburgh on something that forestalls him from hitting free company in these first days of the league 12 months.

Can the Steelers get assist with useless cash value in commerce?

No. The useless cash is a sunken value. There may be nothing Brown can do to make a commerce extra interesting for the Steelers, and nothing a crew can do to commerce cap area for Brown to make the useless cash more easy for Pittsburgh. It’s in opposition to the foundations.

The one strategy to offset among the wage could be to make a star-for-star sort of commerce with a crew that had extreme cap room to eat different prices.

Let’s say the Giants created a bunch of cap room by releasing some veterans and had been keen to do an Odell Beckham-for Brown swap — and that is pure fantasy, nothing extra. In principle, the Giants may pre-pay $10 million of Beckham’s wage as a bonus earlier than the commerce. On this case, reasonably than taking over $17 million in Beckham wage, plus the $20 million-plus in useless cash for Brown, the Steelers would solely take again $7 million in wage for Beckham. It’s a $10 million swap. A crew may do one thing comparable by signing a free agent the Steelers need, after which buying and selling that participant to the Steelers after paying him the signing bonus, getting Brown in return.

MORE: How Steelers missed the 2019 playoffs in six easy steps

Would a crew wish to commerce for Antonio Brown?

A crew that traded for Brown would get him at cap prices of $15.125 million in 2019, $11.three million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021. None of that’s assured. The crew would get one of many high broad receivers within the NFL at a value of $12.975 million per 12 months with no ensures.

In fact they might wish to commerce for him. That’s a steal.

What would the Steelers’ commerce compensation be for Antonio Brown?

Most likely fairly excessive. Brown remains to be good, and the brand new crew would have him underneath contract for 3 seasons.

As a degree of reference, the Eagles in 2018 gave up a third-rounder for a half-season of Golden Tate, and the Texans parted with a fourth for a possible 12 months and a half of Demaryius Thomas. Brown clearly is much better participant than each. Only a guess: The Steelers would comply with a deal for both a second-round choose from a crew selecting within the high 5 or a late first from a crew selecting later within the order. Both would must be paired with one other mid-round choose.

MORE: Steelers expected to restructure Roethlisberger’s contract, report says

Why would Antonio Brown need a commerce from the Steelers?

Brown mustn’t wish to be traded. If he desires out of Pittsburgh, he ought to do all the pieces in his energy to be launched from his contract. There may be far more cash for him in free company. Whereas Brown can’t block a commerce, he can do sufficient to make groups cautious of buying and selling for him until they offer him a elevate.

Ought to the Steelers transfer Antonio Brown?

Most likely not. From a monetary perspective, it is not sensible.

Although Brown most likely received’t be joyful when and if he loses extra targets to JuJu Smith-Schuster, the crew is best off with each receivers on the sector. Pittsburgh is constructed to compete now, and it should maximize that with essentially the most expertise it might probably get.

Brown could also be a difficulty at instances, however there isn’t any purpose the crew can’t work by his points and get everybody on the identical web page. It’s simply too onerous to give you a situation wherein the Steelers come out higher with out Brown.

What about Ben Roethlisberger? What if the Steelers commerce the QB as a substitute?

Roethlisberger is within the ultimate 12 months of his contract, so there could be far much less impression on the wage cap than there could be in a Brown transfer.

Shifting on from Roethlisberger in a commerce or reduce would go away Pittsburgh with simply $6.2 million on their cap as useless cash whereas liberating up $17 million this 12 months.

Roethlisberger would draw extra of a premium than Brown in a commerce due to the place he performs, regardless that he solely has one 12 months remaining on his contract vs. three for Brown. From a cap perspective, each could be about equal for the buying and selling crew ($15.2 million for Brown and $17 million for Roethlisberger).

With that mentioned, from a pure worth standpoint, the Steelers usually are not more likely to transfer the QB over the WR. This isn’t just like the Colts reducing Peyton Manning as a result of they know they will exchange him with Andrew Luck.

The Steelers with Roethlisberger, Juju Smith-Schuster and, say, a second-round choose would compete for the AFC North title. The Steelers with Joshua Dobbs, Brown, Smith-Schuster and, say, two first-rounders rounders most likely wouldn’t compete.

So if the Steelers are compelled to maneuver one among them, Brown could be the selection. If the Steelers want wage cap reduction, search for them to increase Roethlisberger’s contract and unfold out his cap hit.

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