The real reason or reasons why Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown decided to go AWOL last week are still unknown but him doing so has led to many believing that the organization will now move on from him via an offseason.
Adam Schefter of ESPN was a guest on “The Rich Eisen Show” on Thursday and revealed what he’s been hearing regarding Brown’s future with the Steelers following what all transpired last week.
“I think it’s worse than people think,” Schefter said of the Steelers current situation with Brown. “I think there’s more to it than people think and know, and when you talk to people around the league, there’s the overwhelming sense that the Steelers are going to wind up trading Antonio Brown this offseason, that he’s played his last game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And we’ll see if that’s right. Now, I don’t think that they’re planning that today. I don’t think they’ve discussed that today, but I think that there is a prevailing feeling that that’s the direction that this is going to go in and I think Antonio Brown’s going to be happy with that, too.”
Schefter was quickly asked about what kind of return he thinks the Steelers would get for Brown should they indeed decide to trade him this offseason.
“It’s kind of hard to figure it out,” Schefter started. “I mean, the Dallas Cowboys traded a first-round pick for a wide receiver who was seven years younger [than Brown]. Amari Cooper was seven years younger, 24 years old, and Antonio Brown’s 31. Antonio Brown has three more years on this contract and I’m sure, by the way, when they [him and his agent] land in a new place, if they land a new place, they’ll want a new contract. Anyway, but the contract as it is right now, it would be relatively friendly compared to his production. You’re talking about six, seven straight years of 100 plus catches, unparalleled production at the wide receiver position. He’s produced like no other player in the game over the last half dozen years.
“So, from that standpoint, it’s all there. Cooper goes for a one. Brandin Cooks, last offseason, the Rams traded their one for Cooks and a four. So, that gives you an idea of what a guy who was producing more than those other guys should be worth. Now, if there are multiple teams, maybe it goes higher than a one. If there’s not as many teams, maybe it goes lower than a one. But I think that’s the rough baseline area that you could expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to get back for a player like Antonio Brown, should they follow through and go ahead and auction him off.”
Brown, by the way, won’t turn 31 years of age until July. Additionally, let the record show that the Los Angeles Rams acquired receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick in a trade with the New England Patriots last April for their first-round and sixth-round picks and all selections were for the 2018 NFL Draft.
In addition to Schefter’s recent wide receiver trade relocation, perhaps the biggest one that included one player that played that position took place during the 2008 NFL season and right before the trade deadline. That infamous deal included the Detroit Lions trading wide receiver Roy Williams and a seventh-round draft pick to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for first-, third- and sixth-round picks. Williams, by the way, had registered all of 17 receptions for 232 yards and a touchdown for the Lions that season prior to being traded to the Cowboys, who then immediately sign the wide receiver five-year extension reportedly worth $45 million, including more than $20 million guaranteed.
Schefter was also asked on Thursday if he feels the Steelers could stomach all the dead money on their salary cap by trading Brown.
“The cap has risen so much where it can be $190 million and yes, that handicaps you some, to a certain extent, but initially, it’s not about the cap, it’s about cash,” Schefter said. “And teams can do anything they want with the cap They can soften the blow in any year they want by restructuring as many contracts as they want by basically finagling the cap. To swallow 21 million in dead money is really not a big deal as much as it sounds like it’s a big deal because they would free up some of the money, they would make it up through other restructures.
“Don’t forget that they’re going to have the Le’Veon Bell money that comes due. So, Le’Veon Bell money offsets Antonio Brown money, to a certain extent, and it’s not difficult to find that space, if that’s what they want to do, which I think that’s ultimately, if you listen to Mike Tomlin and read between the lines yesterday, that seems like they’re certainly contemplating it right now. They’ll have further discussions about it and we’ll see where it all leads this offseason, but I think most people think it’s going to lead with Antonio Brown getting out of Pittsburgh.”
Schefter certainly isn’t a salary cap expert and he should’ve left running back Le’Veon Bell and his situation out of his answer as it only leads to fans being more confused than they already are. In short, Schefter should have said that the Steelers would gain a little more than a million dollars in 2019 salary cap space by trading Brown before his March roster bonus is due and that the team would save just a little more than $15 million in cash, they are scheduled to pay Brown in 2019 via base salary and roster bonus.
Schefter was then essentially asked what he thinks is currently going on in Pittsburgh with the Rooney template, who he thinks might to be to blame for this past year’s drama and if he thinks all of this just cropped up with Brown over the course of the last week or so.
“No, this has been going on for a while and they’ve allowed this to grow and fester and become what it’s become,” Schefter said. “It’s so un Pittsburgh-like. Like, if we were talking about this being another wide receiver, we wouldn’t think very much of it. We’ve covered stories like this for years with Terrell Owens and it became par for the course, whether it was in Philly or Dallas or San Francisco or wherever. But when do we get drama like this in Pittsburgh? And it’s been a year of drama with Le’Veon Bell, with the offensive line saying, ‘we don’t need him, we’re better without him’, with these Antonio Brown incidents. I mean, that’s not the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s weird.
“And so, I don’t know whether that comes back to Art Rooney or Mike Tomlin or Ben Roethlisberger or Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown or a combination of all of them for letting it get to that point. And shame on everybody, everybody deserves some blame here. But they’ve taken what was a proud franchise, what was a winning franchise, and made it one that everybody’s mocking and wondering what’s gone wrong and laughing about them not making the playoffs.”
Schefter evidently hasn’t been paying too close attention to what all has happened with the Steelers over the course of the last few seasons as the team has had more than their fair share of drama for a few years now. Regardless, it’s clear that the Steelers are pretty much the laughing stock of the NFL with the playoffs about to begin as there weren’t too many people expecting them to not be participating in them.