As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ management team is willing to overlook, to put it in team president Art Rooney II’s words, “minor annoyances” if it means keeping a top-tier player under contract for the foreseeable future.
All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown says that he and the Steelers have begun preliminary talks on a contract extension, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN and per Brown’s own admission during an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.
Brown has vastly outperformed his current contract—a five-year, $41 million extension that he signed prior to the 2013 season. Brown leads the NFL with 481 catches and 6,315 yards in that span, leading to four straight Pro Bowl selections and three first-team All-Pro selections.
It is customary for Pittsburgh to renegotiate with star players who have just a single year remaining on their deals, and Brown will be no different, especially when taking his lofty statistics and overall value to the team into consideration.
Tracking the progress of these talks, however, could prove to be challenging. Notably, the Steelers typically don’t place timelines on extension talks—Ben Roethlisberger signed a multi-year extension in March, while David DeCastro and former Steeler Cortez Allen didn’t sign extensions until September. The Steelers do not negotiate in-season, which gives Brown and the Steelers a little over seven months to get something in writing.
Brown, who turns 29 just weeks before Pittsburgh reports to training camp, should command a market-value salary, though it is unfair to speculate on his desired terms. It would not be unreasonable for Brown to demand a five-year deal similar to those signed by Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, which pays each of these receivers at least $70 million over the length of the deal with at least 45 percent of the contract guaranteed.
Generally speaking, years and guaranteed money seem to be the most desirable attributes of NFL contracts. Josh Norman, for instance, could not come to terms on an extension with the Carolina Panthers due to issues with years and guaranteed money. He was ultimately released and signed with Washington, who happily forked over a massive multi-year deal.
Guaranteed money shouldn’t be an issue for Brown, as he has already distinguished himself as one of the two best receivers in the NFL. However, paying a 34-year-old receiver $14 million in the final year of a contract might make Pittsburgh’s front office a little green in the gills. It will be interesting to see how both sides go about getting this deal done.
Regardless, there is mutual interest from both sides in ensuring that Brown remains with the Steelers, with Brown going as far to indicate that his “plan” is to finish his career with the Steelers. In an era when playing an entire career with a single team is increasingly rare, that would be praiseworthy accomplishment for both parties.