The Pittsburgh Steelers have no intention of reworking star receiver Antonio Brown’s contract any time soon—a big long-term miscalculation in this day and age.
General manager Kevin Colbert shot down rumors that Drew Rosenhaus was making progress on a new contract extension. He told reporters it was just a courtesy meeting, whatever that means, when Rosenhaus traveled to Jacksonville last week.
“Players sign contracts, we expect them to honor them,” Colbert said (h/t triblive.com). “If a player has one year to go other than a quarterback is when we have gotten into discussions. It has been the position of the organization and it has always been like that.”
On the one hand, it’s easy to appreciate that the Steelers have managed to stay relevant for decades at a time, utilizing this strategy. Colbert made mention of this very thing, saying “It was something that was here before I got here and I am sure it will continue after I am gone.”
On the other hand, the financial landscape of the NFL is changing swiftly, with the salary cap rising significantly up to approximately $160 million in 2016. With these swift changes comes a change in perception amongst the elite athletes who are helping to bring in all this new money via television deals.
Fans tune in to watch the stars play—especially in this age of fantasy football.
And make no mistake about it, Brown is one of the stars people tune in to watch. He led the league in receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698) last year, hauling in 13 touchdowns. Furthermore, he has improved his play every year since joining the NFL as a rookie out of Central Michigan in 2010.
On top of his outstanding play, Brown has remained a team player throughout the process thus far. He hasn’t missed any practices and hasn’t held out of training camp. He hasn’t done what Mike Wallace did back in 2012 when he ran his mouth and then ran himself out of Pittsburgh.
That same year, the Steelers chose to sign Brown to the big contract rather than Wallace, thanks in large part because he is such a team player—not to mention he is the best route-runner in the league with the kind of speed and athleticism that would make Mercury proud.
That deal was for six years, worth $42 million. It was a good deal then, but now? Not so much. Brown is currently getting paid less than 13 other receivers, and meanwhile he’s watching guys like T.Y. Hilton ink a five-year contract worth $65 million.
The market has changed—dramatically.
Yet the Steelers would have Brown play out his deal, regardless of the fact that his production demands he get paid in the Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas range. Both of these men got nearly as much guaranteed money in their recent deals as Brown’s entire contract was worth when he signed it in 2012.
Brown plays a premier position in the NFL, and he’s putting up numbers that Calvin Johnson would be proud of. The right thing to do here for Pittsburgh is to pay him what he is worth so that he feels respected and appreciated.
Pittsburgh is making a serious tactical error here. You don’t want to tick off the guy who has been doing everything right for your organization. You don’t want him to feel disrespected, yet that’s exactly what Colbert is doing right now making statements about how Brown needs to just honor his contract.
Unless things change on this front, nobody should be surprised if Brown decides to hold out at some point in the future and really digs his heels in.
In the immortal words of Deion Sanders, just pay da man.