The Antonio Brown Situation™ got a lot clearer yesterday than it was just a day before. While it certainly felt as though it would all be heading in this direction, the meeting that took place between Brown and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II provided a sense of finality to the uncertainty.
We now know that both sides are prepared for Brown to be traded, and that both parties at this point feel it is in their mutual best interests. But we also learned another very key fact, which is that the Steelers are, at least up to this point, reserving all their rights in this process, having denied Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to speak directly to teams in an effort to facilitate a trade.
This is important for a number of reasons, the first being the most obvious, which is that that they have the opportunity to ensure that they get the best trade value for him that they can. The Steelers are entirely within their rights to exercise their control over Brown’s contract, which has three years remaining, so it’s up to them to decide where it goes next.
But doing so in this manner also helps them skirt around precedents without violating them. Brown has been a player that they have long had to dance around their established precedents for, starting with their giving him a long-term contract after just two seasons.
The fact that they forwarded him future money twice at the back end of that first extension was unprecedented for the team, but was a necessary measure to be able to both appease Brown and to retain their precedent of not working on new contracts with players (outside of a franchise quarterback) with more than one year remaining on their present deal.
As it turned out, the Steelers consistently made concessions for Brown, contractually and otherwise, wherein lay the root of the problem. We have all read the stories at this point, so they need not be regurgitated.
Brown may have succeeded in forcing the Steelers’ hand to trade him, but Pittsburgh can still sell it as a win after determining that the trade was also in their own interests, and by dictating the terms of the trade.
Such rigid adherence to principle has seen the organization run afoul before, surely, but doing so generally serves them well, and has done so for a long time. This present situation, now reaching a resolution, will also help to establish future precedents for how to deal with a similar situation in the future, should it ever arise.