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Steelers Costs, Salary Cap Ramification Scenarios Of Moving On From Antonio Brown

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers trade wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason? Nobody knows for sure if that will ultimately be the case but head coach Mike Tomlin certainly didn’t rule out the possibility of Brown being dealt in the coming months. So, what would the costs and cap ramifications be for the Steelers should they indeed decide to trade or cut Brown at some point during the offseason? Below is a breakdown of the multiple scenarios and some are a lot more likely to happen than others.

As a starting point, and to save some time, below is a multiple scenario chart from Ian Whetstone of Steel City Insider on Twitter that you can follow along with. However, before we get to breaking down the scenarios, immediately below is a look at the way Brown’s current contract is set up by year along with his scheduled salary cap charges..

YEAR BASE SALARY PRORATED BONUS ROSTER BONUS CAP NUMBER
2019 $12,625,000 $7,040,000 $2,500,000 $22,165,000
2020 $11,300,000 $7,040,000 $0 $18,340,000
2021 $12,500,000 $7,040,000 $0 $19,540,000

Brown is currently scheduled to earn base salaries over the course of the next three seasons of $12.625 million (2019), $11.3 million (2020) and $12.5 million (2021). Additionally, he is due a roster bonus of $2.5 million this year in March, just a few days of the start of the 2019 new league year. The $7.04 million by year you see in the prorated bonus column is the amortized amount that Brown has already been paid in signing bonuses of which some was given to him via contract restructure. That total sum of $21.12 million is what would be the dead money should Brown ultimately be traded or cut.

Now let’s look at the multiple scenarios that Whetstone listed in his infographic and explain each one in detail.

Scenario 1: This is cut and dry and assumes that Brown remains with the Steelers in 2019. The cash payout to Brown in 2019 would be $15.125 million and that’s the sum of his $12.625 million base salary he’s due and his $2.5 million roster bonus he’s due to be paid on March 17. That $15.125 million, when added to the prorated bonus amount of $7.04 million, equates to Brown’s 2019 scheduled salary cap charge of $22.165 million.

Scenario 2 & 5: These two scenarios are the same set of numbers and the only reason they are separated is because one is listed as Brown being cut by the Steelers before March 17 and the other is the wide receiver being traded before March 17. In summation, both sets of numbers reflect the dead money that the Steelers would incur in 2019 should Brown be cut or traded before March 17 when his $2.5 million roster bonus is due to be paid to him. The $21.12 million that’s listed as the cap hit (dead money) in both scenarios is the sum of the prorated bonus that has already been paid to Brown. The significance in the two scenarios, and what makes them different from a few others, is that a trading or cutting of Brown would take place prior to him being paid his $2.5 million roster bonus.

Scenario 3: This scenario is what would happen should Brown be cut right after the start of the new league year in March but before March 17 when his $2.5 million roster bonus is due to be paid to him, and he is then designated as a post June 1 release. This scenario would result in the Steelers having a dead money charge of $7.04 million in 2019 and another dead money charge against their cap in 2020 in the amount of $14.08 million. Designating Brown as a post June 1 cut in this scenario would prevent the Steelers from eating all $21.12 million of his prorated bonus amounts in one season as dead money and also save them the $2.5 million roster bonus. However, designating Brown as a post June 1 release prior to March 17 would then require the Steelers to carry his full 2019 salary cap charge on the books until June 1 arrives. After June 1, Brown’s charge against the 2019 cap (dead money) would drop to $7.04 million as the $12.625 million base salary would then come off the books. As stated, however, the Steelers would have a dead money charge $14.08 million in 2020 in this scenario.

Scenario 4 & 6: These two scenarios are related to Brown being cut without post June 1 designation after March 17, or traded after March 17, but before June 1. In summation, the Steelers would have paid Brown his $2.5 million roster bonus before cutting or trading him before June 1, the date they would need to cut or trade him after to defer his final two seasons of prorated bonus money already paid to him. The Steelers would incur a dead money charge of $23.62 million in 2019 in both of these scenarios as that would be the sum of his prorated bonuses ($21.12 million) and his $2.5 million roster bonus.

Scenario 7: This last scenario would be the byproduct of the Steelers trading Brown after June 1. This scenario is similar to No. 3 as a deferment dead money charge of $14.08 million would occur. However, being as the trade would happen after Brown had received his $2.5 million roster bonus in March, the dead money charge of $7.04 million in 2019 listed in No. 3 scenario would increase by the roster bonus amount to $9.54 million.


With each of those scenarios listed above in the infographic now detailed, the two most-likely ones to occur would be No. 1 and No. 5. No. 1 is the Steelers retaining Brown in 2019. No. 5 is the scenario where Brown would be traded before March 17 ends, the day he is scheduled to receive his $2.5 million roster bonus. It’s worth noting, however, that the No. 5 scenario includes a very small window as the trading period for 2019 begins on March 13 at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2018 contracts. That’s also the start of the 2019 league year.

Now, should the Steelers choose scenario No. 5 above, they would have the previously noted dead money charge in 2019 of $21.12. If you do the math, that’s just $1.045 million less than his cap charge would be should they choose scenario No. 1, which is keeping him. When you factor in roster displacement cost of trading Brown, the Steelers really wouldn’t save very much 2019 salary cap space by going with scenario No. 5. They would, however, save $15.125 million in cash in 2019 along with the remaining $23.8 million Brown is scheduled to earn in 2020 and 2021 and in the process rid themselves of one very, very, very talented headcase.

Thank you to Whetstone for providing the infographic as it was a huge time-saver.

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