There are many, many ways in which the Pittsburgh Steelers’ trade with the Oakland Raiders makes them look bad. One factor that really shouldn’t be getting as much attention as it is getting is the wide receiver’s salary cap hit for the Steelers in 2019 in spite of the fact that he is not going to be on the roster.
Brown is going to count $21.12 million against the Steelers’ salary cap this year without being on the team. That seems rather ridiculous, and it is. But I think a refresher on some of the salary cap basics would be helpful here in explaining this number.
First of all, the number has nothing to do with 2019 cash being spent. That cap hit is entirely the byproduct of the culmination of all the guaranteed money he had already received that hasn’t previously been accounted for to be accounted now.
Brown’s original extension included a $19 million signing bonus, which was fully guaranteed. That, spread out over five seasons (beginning with the final year of his previous deal) accounts for $3.8 million per season from 2017 through 2021 that he already received two years ago.
In 2018, the Steelers created nearly $10 million in salary cap space by converting a $6 million roster bonus due that year, plus the majority of his base salary, into a signing bonus, which could then be prorated over the next four seasons. That added an additional $3.24 million to each year remaining on the deal.
Add that up and you get $7.04 million per season in money that Brown had already received but is being accounted for at a later date. Because he has three years left in his contract, the prorated bonus money from 2020 and 2021 are accelerated into the 2019 cap hit, which comes in at a whopping $21.12 million.
That is slightly less than what he would have accounted for with his $12.625 million base salary and $2.5 million roster bonus, plus the one-year prorated figure of $7.04 million, which all totaled up would have been $22.165 million.
Now that we understand that, it’s important to explain why it doesn’t make a difference. Because, as Ian Whetstone very helpfully explained, it doesn’t make a difference, regarding the team’s decision to restructure his deal last year, which added almost $10 million to what his cap hit would be right now following the trade.
In a (probably futile) attempt to illustrate why I said earlier that last year’s restructure of Antonio Brown’s contract has no negative bearing on the team’s cap situation this year, even though it jacked up his dead money upon trade, I wrote this up to explain. It has a chart. pic.twitter.com/LQObz1IhNv
— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 10, 2019
It doesn’t matter, quite simply, because it works out the same way. The Steelers got that roughly $10 million relief last year. They didn’t use it, so it rolled into this year. In essence, they ended up borrowing money from the future, with no interest, that they ended up not using.
The only reason it looks as bad as it does is because of the way the bookkeeping works, which makes sense once you understand it. Brown would have had a cap hit of nearly $18 million last year but instead was just under $8 million. As a result, with the acceleration due to the removal of the contract, his 2019 cap hit jumped from what would have been roughly $11 million to $21 million, but with the additional $10 million having already been factored into their total cap charge. It’s just in the form of a 2018 carryover instead.