The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the middle of a saga with Le’Veon Bell, after failing to reach a long-term deal and avoiding the one-year franchise tag, but they aren’t in any drama with Antonio Brown after reaching a new contract with the All-Pro wide receiver prior to the 2017 season.
However, the deal Brown was awarded was given the honor of being “outsized” by ESPN Insider. If you are like me, you are wondering, “What does “outsized” mean? Is it good, or bad?”
Here is the description Bill Barnwell gave when defining the term:
Every team wants to build its roster around cheap rookies and veterans who are making less than market value, but what is market value, anyway?
Let's try to define that today, and in doing so, we can figure out which teams often hand out deals that exceed market value and whether they're right to do so. I've gone through every multiyear contract I could find since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed in July 2011 and measured each deal's three-year value, which is the actual money a player would take home if he stayed on the roster for three seasons without departing or renegotiating his contract. Several NFL organizations use this metric as a simple measure of a contract's value.
The NFL's biggest three-year contract belongs to Andrew Luck, who will take home $75 million over that span in his extension. That's useful information, but it's not very helpful in setting the market for a right tackle or a punter. So I built a baseline three-year value for each position by taking the average of the top 20 contracts during this time frame at each spot. This includes both active and inactive contracts signed since 2011, because the latter still play a part in defining the market. In some cases, the biggest contracts at a position are ones that are no longer on the books. The top five running back contracts (led by Adrian Peterson) and top two wideout deals (Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald) aren't currently active, but they're used here to help set the baseline value.
Those baseline values range from $57,757,933 for quarterbacks to $2,904,166 for long snappers. (I lumped centers and guards as interior linemen, combined defensive ends with pass-rushing outside linebackers as edge rushers and mixed coverage linebackers with inside linebackers.) Luck's deal might be the biggest in the game, but once you account for the amount quarterbacks get paid, his three-year compensation falls in line as 29.9 percent above average.
As it turns out, Luck's deal comes in as the 26th-largest active contract after adjusting for positional value. Let's run through the 25 other deals and see what it tells us about the teams that signed them.
Out of those aforementioned 25 contracts who were labeled as “outsized”, Brown’s contract ranks 23rd, and here is what they had to say about the deal:
23. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Three-year compensation: $48.91 million (30.9 percent over baseline)
Brown's deal is the only wide receiver contract on this list. The market is skewed by virtue of the fact that the two largest post-CBA deals are from 2011 (Larry Fitzgerald, $51 million) and 2012 (Calvin Johnson, $51.755 million). Each of those contracts maxed out in excess of $113 million, but the biggest active wideout deal is the five-year, $71 million contract given to Julio Jones. It's not clear those deals worked out. The Cardinals have needed to restructure the Fitz deal twice and will owe $4.9 million in dead money on their cap after Fitzgerald hits free agency this offseason. Brown's deal seems far more likely to work out.
While some of the wide receiver contracts mentioned in the article could be viewed as bad contracts, this cannot be deciphered with Brown’s contract until at least his first three years of his new deal. Why? Because if he can keep up his current pace, there is no doubt he is worth every penny of that contract. If age starts to creep up on Brown, and he isn’t as explosive as he was the past three seasons, some might view the contract as being a bad deal.
In the meantime, very few faulted the Steelers when they made the deal, and more shouldn’t fault them if Brown’s deal doesn’t pan out, because doing so would be nothing more than playing Monday Morning Quarterback with decision to extend the dynamic wide out.