For Pittsburgh Steelers fans like myself who never took the initial rumors of a possible trade Antonio Brown seriously when they first emerged after Week 17, the receiver’s social media posts on Tuesday and the subsequent reports confirming an official trade request had been made were something of a wake up call.
Given the column inches already dedicated to the subject on this site and many others, most fans are already well aware of the salary cap implications of trading Brown, but given the inaccurate reporting by some notable names in the media as of late, it would appear that a reminder might be in order.
A restructure of Browns contract in March of 2018 effectively attached a prorated bonus of $7.04 million to each of the remaining years of his deal, with the entire amount needing to be accounted for financially this season if Brown was released or traded before before June 2.
Set to earn a base salary of $12.652 million in 2019 and a roster bonus of $2.5 million due on March 17, Brown would have a total cap hit of $22.165 million if he remains with the Steelers in 2019. Should he be traded, while Pittsburgh would be off the hook for the $15.125 million in cash due to Brown, they would still need to account for the three outstanding years of prorated signing bonus attached to his contact.
Ultimately, a trade would leave the Steelers with a dead money figure of $21.12 million to account this season and create a cap saving of just $1.045 million, regardless of how some in the media might attempt to spin the numbers to make it appear otherwise.
There remains a possibility of reducing that dead money figure in 2019 by either waiting to trade Brown until after June 2 or simply releasing him outright with a post-June designation. In this scenario, Pittsburgh would only have to account for $7.04 million in dead money this year and then another $14.08 million in 2020, but also find themselves with an extra $12.652 million to work with if he was traded or $15.125 million if released before his roster bonus is due.
Unless the Steelers really want the cap space this offseason, there is nothing to be gained from giving Brown his outright release. The receivers recent antics and legal issues may have diminished his appeal, but if Joe Flacco can generate a fourth-round draft pick via trade, Brown has to the worth at least a third.