2016 Steelers Training Camp Battle Preview: Antonio Brown Vs. Kevin Colbert

With the Pittsburgh Steelers reporting to training camp on Thursday, it will be interesting to watch one unique battle unfold over the course of the next several weeks at Saint Vincent College and back in the Steel City.

Not surprisingly, word surfaced Wednesday morning that Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown wants a new contract ahead of the 2016 regular season. You can’t blame him one bit as he is grossly underpaid right now when it comes to his yearly average. While Brown might very well receive more money this year from the Steelers – more on that in the little bit – if we are to believe the comments made last August by general manager Kevin Colbert, the wide receiver isn’t likely to receive an extension until next year at around this same time.

Colbert was very straight forward last year during training camp when talking about Brown’s contract situation.

“Antonio Brown is under contract and that’s all there is to it,” said Colbert. He later added, “Players sign contracts, we expect them to honor those until there’s a year left. The only time we’ve gone away from that is with the quarterbacks and we’ve been consistent about going to them with two years left, except for Ben this year. You know Ben didn’t do his until he had one year left.” And he ended with this, “The Steelers have been very consistent with how they do business before I got here, after I got here.”

Now, the Steelers did ultimately advance Brown $2 million of his 2016 scheduled base salary as part of a contract restructure just prior to the start of the regular season. According to former NFL agent Joel Corry, the Steelers can redo Brown’s contract prior to the one-year anniversary of last year’s renegotiation as long as his 2016 cap charge doesn’t increase.

Brown is currently scheduled to have a cap charge of $12,370,833 in 2016, so if the Steelers are going to do something similar to what they did last year, they can do it at any time as long as that cap charge doesn’t increase. I have laid this out in the past and will re-post it for those who missed seeing it.

In reality, the Steelers can pay Brown $5 million of his scheduled 2017 base salary right now along with $5.25 million of his 2016 base salary as a signing bonus. That would result in Brown earning $11.25 million in 2016 and while still way behind the $15 million that Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green currently averages, at least it gets the Steelers star player closer to the top. Such a restructure would actually result in Brown’s 2016 salary cap charge dropping slightly as you can see in the before and after examples below.

Brown’s Current Contract – $6.25 million in 2016

2016 $6,250,000 $6,120,833 $12,370,833
2017 $8,710,000 $4,420,834 $13,130,834

Proposed Restructured Contract – $11.25 million in 2016

2016 $1,000,000 $11,245,833 $12,245,833
2017 $3,710,000 $9,545,834 $13,255,834

What if $11.25 million in 2016 isn’t good enough for Brown? Well, the Steelers could probably give him up to $7.81 million of his 2017 scheduled base salary after September 1 as part of a restructure, but in doing so, it could result in Brown having a prorated bonus charge in 2017 of $10,950,834 if they also want to keep his 2016 cap charge somewhat in line. What does that mean? It means that should they do a restructure like I laid out below, and assuming Brown were to finally get a new contract next offseason, his 2017 cap charge would likely be $15 million or more after the deal is signed. He would, however, earn $14.06 million in 2016.

Proposed Restructured Contract – $14.06 million in 2016

2016 $900,000 $12,700,833 $13,600,833
2017 $900,000 $11,000,834 $11,900,834

As you can see, there are quite a few ways this can go when it comes to this training camp battle between Brown and Colbert. With that said, I doubt the Steelers will give the wide receiver an extension prior to the start of the regular season as Colbert seemed prepared to stick to franchise history nearly one full year ago. You can bet both Brown and Colbert will be asked about all of this in the coming weeks and days.

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