Several front office personnel told Jeremy Fowler last week that The Antonio Brown Situation™–and the means by which the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to resolve it—caused them concern, wondering if a precedent had not been set that would allow other high-profile players to essentially treat themselves as unrestricted free agents with several years remaining on their contracts.
While Fowler’s sources seemed to sympathize with the predicament that Brown had put the team in, some noted that they had other options available to them outside of trading him away, and another described the decision as uncharacteristic of the franchise.
Agents, however, seem to see less potential for a pattern to emerge in the future based on what Brown did. One agent told the ESPN reporter of Brown, “he was crazy enough to pull this off. Most guys aren’t wired that way. The contracts and rules are in place”.
This is essentially the same thing that I argued shortly after the trade to the Oakland Raiders was completed. The circumstances that emerged surrounding Brown were rather rare, perhaps even unique, especially when paired with the talent level that would be in question should any other player attempt to duplicate his feat.
One can easily surmise that Brown’s dissatisfaction with the extension that he signed with the Steelers had long been brewing, perhaps starting as soon as another wide receiver signed a contract averaging more in new money than his deal. But he was looking at the money being made at other positions as well.
There were a series of incidents throughout the offseason that displayed a player who appeared to be becoming unraveled, and one can’t help but wonder how much of that was influenced by the frustration from his contract—or the orchestration of a plan.
That ‘plan’, insofar as there was one, seemed to come into effect in Week 17 following an alleged incident in a Wednesday walkthrough. He went incommunicado with the team over the weekend, and when he was deactivated for the game, he left at halftime, not speaking to anybody again for months.
Anybody on the team, anyway. He spoke with former disgruntled employees and others who have had a colorful history. He would post on social media and retweet or ‘like’ odd anti-Steelers things. Then the mustache changed. Then he started outright badmouthing the organization.
It was a process that unfolded in a series of escalations that seemed to be designed to put the pressure on the organization as they tried their best to remain composed and wait it out. They ultimately realized that there was nothing to wait out any longer and that it was best to cut the cord.
I’m not sure there are many other players who have the talent level and the mental and emotional demeanor to do something similar to what Brown did this offseason. It seems as though agents are skeptical as well. But if I were the one who had to write the paychecks, I would probably be concerned as well just to be safe.