March 17 is when the Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to be on the hook for the $2.5 million roster bonus that’s due wide receiver Antonio Brown and apparently the team recently asked the player to delay that transaction to help their cause in trying to trade him.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Steelers asked Brown to delay the date of the $2.5 million roster bonus he’s due on March 17 and as you might expect, the wide receiver reportedly declined the team’s request.
According to an earlier Sunday report by Florio, because Brown’s roster bonus he’s due on the fifth day of the new league year is scheduled to be paid out over the 17 weeks of the 2019 season, he speculates that if the wide receiver is traded after that date and any point before Week 1, the new team that acquires him would then likely have to assume all rights and responsibilities under the contract and thus be responsible for the full amount and that means taking the salary cap charge as well.
“As one league source with general knowledge of the procedures in this regard explained it to PFT, payment of the $2.5 million would become one of the negotiating points during the discussions culminating in a possible trade,” wrote Florio on Sunday. “The fact that the Steelers haven’t actually paid the money, however, makes it easier for the Steelers to take the position that the new team should pay the money.”
Personally, I’m not sure Florio’s assumption is right and thus should Brown still be on the Steelers roster come March 17, they will likely be on the hook for his full $2.5 million bonus even if they’re only required to pay it to him over 17 weeks of the 2019 regular season.
Teams usually pay out signing bonuses and sometimes roster bonuses over the course of 17 weeks of a season, so I think Florio’s speculation might be off the mark on this one. In short, it is my understanding that if Brown is still on the Steelers roster come March 17, they’ll be responsible for paying him his $2.5 million and that same amount will be charged against their 2019 salary cap as well unless something can somehow unbeknownst to me be worked out with a team that acquires him via a trade after that date.
The March 17 date has always been regarded this offseason as a sort of soft deadline for the Steelers to trade Brown by because they can save the $2.5 million in cash and cap by having him gone by then. They obviously can trade Brown after that date if they want to try to hold out for a better deal but it will cost them a little extra cash and cap to do so.
It will be interesting to see if former NFL agent Joel Corry of CBS Sports chimes in on this subject soon. Personally, I would wait to get more clarity on this subject before taking the Sunday report/speculation by Florio as gospel.
At worst, one would think that Brown will be traded before the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway with the earliest date being after the start of the new league year and before March 17, the fifth day of that new league year. After the scouting combine ends on Monday, odds are probably pretty good that the Steelers will have received their best offer for Brown as not much will likely change from then until the start of the draft.