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Predicting the Steelers offseason - Part Five: Antonio Brown’s contract and finishing touches

In the fifth part of our series of predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, we predict Antonio Brown’s next contract, as well as Ryan Shazier’s 5th year option and more.

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

I did not think Steelers GM Kevin Colbert had such a tough job. Whew, I was wrong. Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s NFL Draft picks might be in the books, but the offseason is just hitting full stride.

The past five days have been intense, not just because I was dealing with players, but also because of the agents and other GMs. In the past couple of months, I signed several of our past players who were set to become free agents, and also unrestricted free agents who were on the open market. Less than four and a half months until the season starts — so much to do, so little time. I will not take a stab in the dark on signing the numerous camp bodies who are undrafted rookie free agents. The odds of them making the final roster are so slim anyway that there’s no point in trying to foretell what might happen with them.

Players under contract -- 70

Post draft cap space -- $15,485,483 (Draft picks only count the league minimum until they sign their contracts. Therefore, this is the space remaining outside of the Top 51.)

May 1 through May 30

Ryan Shazier is the first order of business. I only have a few days to decide whether to pick up his fifth-year option. Shazier was ADDED to the Pro Bowl roster in 2016 as an injury fill-in for C. J. Mosley. His stat line for 2016 of 87 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INTs, and 3 forced fumbles to go along with 9 pass deflections is impressive considering he did it in 13 games. This is similar to the 2015 season totals. When he is in the lineup, he is dynamic, but therein lies the issue. Three seasons, 29 starts. Is he an injury-prone player or just having bad luck? I lean toward just bad luck and extend his fifth-year contract. The fifth-year contract is for 2018 and does not affect the 2017 season.

Now, time to get busy signing our draft picks -- such an easy process now that the rookies are slotted with their contracts. All the rookies will be given our standard four-year deal with offset language. I sign Conner Harris (4th round, $602,659), Elijah McGuire (5th round, $522,132), Jalen Robinette (also 5th round, $515,115), Calvin Munson (6th round, $497,072) and Jerry Ugokwe (7th round, $481,385). Only Harris counts against Rule 51 as the numbers are their 2017 cap hits. Full contract breakdowns can be found here.

Preliminary contract negotiations open with Antonio Brown, and it will not be an easy task. Steeler Nation loves their superstar, who is coming off his fourth-straight 100-catch season, and wants him to retire as a Steeler. A sticking point is how he ruffled the feathers of his teammates and coaches with his antics in 2016. Selfish penalties after TDs, the shoe distraction, pouting about not being fed the ball enough — and then it all reached a crescendo with his post-game Facebook Live session. The 29-year-old WR ultimately will decide to be a team player. He gets a four-year extension that includes $60 million in new money. Included in the deal is an $18 million signing bonus.

The tricky part of the deal comes in the structure. AB sits on $9 million in bonuses that have already been paid out, so I have to work around that.

2017 cap structure — $2 million base salary, $12,508,334 million total prorated bonuses and $2.7 million of his base salary converted into an immediate roster bonus. Cap hit — $17,208,334 million.

2018 cap structure — $8 million base salary fully guaranteed along with $3,600,000 prorated signing bonus. Cap hit — $11,600,000.

2019 cap structure — $10 million base salary along with $3,600,000 prorated signing bonus. Cap hit — $13,600,000

2020 cap structure — $10 million base salary along with $3,600,000 prorated signing bonus and $2 million roster bonus. Cap hit — $13,600,000

2021 cap structure — $10 million base salary along with $3,600,000 prorated signing bonus and $2 million roster bonus. Cap hit — $13,600,000

One thing you will note with the structure is that — for better or worse — we are locked in with AB for at least three years. Cutting, or trading, him after 2019 would be painful, but not as excruciating as a post-June 1 cut designation.

I sign D.J. Hayden to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. The former Oakland Raider will compete for slot duties with William Gay and Senquez Golson. Hayden’s market has been relatively quiet after he bombed out in Oakland. The former 12th-overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of Houston has a strong college pedigree but a poor track record in the NFL. A torn hamstring ended his season after just 12 games in 2016 — and the games played matched the number of penalties he accrued.

Here is how the Steelers stand in this theoretical exercise with me as the GM.

Players under contract — 87 (The top three draft picks are not yet signed.)

Current cap space — $11,172,824

In case you missed one of the previous articles, you can read them below:

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 1

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 2

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 3

Predicting the Steelers offseason: Part 4