Looking at a Possible Contract Extension for Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown has been one of the best receivers in the league the past few years, arguably the best. In any matchup he’s faced, even the toughest ones, Brown finds a way to have a big game. It doesn’t even feel surprising anymore when he has monstrous games of ten catches and well over 100 yards. Retaining Antonio Brown for an extended period of time is definitely a top priority for the Steelers, because he and Ben Roethlisberger are a deadly duo.


Brown has a lot going for him. He’s not only a top wide receiver in the league, but he can also return punts, an ability that other star receivers in the league don’t possess. Brown also stays healthy. He hasn’t missed a game in the least three years. That’s something that fellow star receivers Julio Jones and Dez Bryant can’t say.

The Steelers brass were not seriously discussing a contract extension with Brown this past off-season. That’s logical since he has two years left on his contract, so the team had all the leverage. Instead, they said they will negotiate a new deal after this year, when Brown has one year remaining on his contract.

Comparable Players

This is an opportunity to compare Antonio Brown to the best receivers in the league who have recently signed new contracts — AJ Green and Julio Jones. Dez Bryant doesn’t belong in this conversation because he signed a new deal after his previous one expired, rather than with a year remaining on the original contract, like Green and Jones. Here are their average stats over the last four seasons, including this season averaged out.

Average Annual Stats Over the Last 4 Seasons

Player

Receptions

Yards

TDs

Antonio Brown

124.4

1,627.1

10.9

AJ Green

92.6

1,369.4

8.5

Julio Jones

94.7

1,453.0

6.0

Antonio Brown is way ahead of everyone in receptions and he also has a good lead on the rest of the group in yards and touchdowns. However, This doesn’t tell the whole story. Julio Jones missed twelve games over the last four seasons, and Green missed three. That definitely gives Brown an advantage over them. He’s stayed completely healthy, which will help him in negotiations. Let’s take a look at each player’s stat line per game played to get a more accurate comparison of the numbers.

Average Per-Game Stats Over the Last 4 Seasons

Player

Receptions

Yards

TDs

Antonio Brown

7.78

101.69

0.68

AJ Green

6.07

89.80

0.56

Julio Jones

7.28

111.77

0.46

Antonio Brown is number one or two in every category. He is ahead in receptions and touchdowns per game and not far behind Julio Jones in yards per game. We can safely say that Brown should get a more lucrative contract than Green. When it comes to Jones, however, it’s a little complicated. Jones gains yards at a better rate than Brown, but he is slightly behind in the other categories. Regardless, Brown should get a better contract than Jones because of the health factor. Eleven of the twelve games that Jones has missed were in a single season. However, he has mad multiple nagging injuries through which he’s managed to play. Brown, on the other hand, hasn’t even been listed on the injury report. Being 100 percent healthy is surely worth more than a chunk of yards. That may not necessarily affect the extension of Brown’s contract in terms of total dollars, but rather more in terms of guaranteed money. Let’s get more into that.

Contract Structure

Let’s start with the basic numbers. In 2015, both Green and Jones signed extensions that are set to end when they’ll be 32 years old. Brown will probably sign for four years, which will bring the total length of his contract to five years, ending when he’s 33.

Between he and Julio Jones, AJ Green has the higher average per year. Since we’ve established that Antonio Brown has produced for his team more than the two other players, the floor of Brown’s extension would be Green’s $15 million average per year mark with a ceiling of $1 million higher.

Interestingly, Jones got more fully guaranteed money than Green. Jones’ deal is 49.8 percent fully guaranteed, while Green’s is 44.6 percent fully guaranteed. As explained before, Brown hasn’t missed a game, which would warrant him slightly topping Jones’ 49.8 percent. The Steelers, however, don’t give players fully guaranteed money outside the signing bonus and periodically a roster bonus. Therefore Brown won’t top Jones’ high percentage of fully guaranteed money, but, rather, he would get a higher signing bonus to make up for the difference. Brown will be shooting for the biggest signing bonus by a wide receiver, which is Dez Bryant’s $20 million. Brown also beats Bryant in the stat battle.

Average Annual Stats Over the Last 4 Seasons

Average Per-Game Stats Over the Last 4 Seasons

Player

Receptions

Yards

TDs

Receptions

Yards

TDs

Antonio Brown

124.4

1627.1

10.9

7.78

101.69

0.68

Dez Bryant

62.8

915.4

9.3

4.98

71.32

0.74

It isn’t even a close contest. Antonio Brown should get a bigger signing bonus than Dez Bryant. Furthermore, Bryant has missed ten games over the last two seasons, and again, Brown has stayed completely healthy. That being said, Brown’s signing bonus could be as high as $21 million. Since he won’t have the highest full guarantee, he’ll want to say he has at least the highest signing bonus. The Steelers also don’t like putting roster bonuses in their contracts, but Brown might be able to fight for one, running up his full guarantee.

Now that we know how much total money Brown should be getting, we need to figure out the cash flow. AJ Green got more money than Julio Jones in year zero, the last year of the previous contract. However, already in year one of the extension the cash flow was practically evened out and got even closer as the years went on.

Running Cashflow

Player

Year 0

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Julio Jones

$11,824,000

$25,324,000

$36,824,000

$47,324,000

$59,824,000

$71,250,000

AJ Green

$16,574,000

$26,574,000

$37,074,000

$47,824,000

$60,000,000

Brown’s previous contract was similar to Green’s extension, with more money coming in year zero than year one. His new deal should follow the same running cashflow.

Lastly, let’s get into how the money will be split up. This will be more like the method the team is used to using. This chart shows that AJ Green’s and Julio Jones’ extensions and structured much differently, as well as was Antonio Brown’s previous contract.

Contract Structure Breakdown

Player

Signing Bonus

Roster Bonus

Workout Bonus

Base Salary

Antonio Brown

20.3%

6.0%

0.0%

73.8%

Julio Jones

16.8%

16.1%

0.0%

67.0%

AJ Green

25.0%

10.0%

1.3%

63.7%

Brown’s Extension

The basic numbers of a possible extension for Antonio Brown would be around four years, $61,000,000 total value ($15,250,000 average per year), with $21,000,000 fully guaranteed — 34.4 percent of the contract. That’s $1 million total ($250,000 per year) more than AJ Green, including a $1 million in signing bonus more than Dez Bryant. Based on the Steelers’ history of structuring a contract and the numbers from AJ Green’s and Julio Jones’ extensions, this is what Antonio Brown’s extension would look like:

Antonio Brown Extension Yearly Breakdown

Year

Base Salary

Prorated Signing Bonus

Roster Bonus

2017

$2,750,000

$4,200,000

$0

2018

$4,780,000

$4,200,000

$3,660,000

2019

$8,950,000

$4,200,000

$0

2020

$9,200,000

$4,200,000

$0

2021

$10,660,000

$4,200,000

$0

This is what the yearly cashflow of Antonio Brown’s extension would be compared to Julio Jones and AJ Green:

Yearly Cashflow

Player

Year 0

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Antonio Brown

$23,750,000

$8,440,000

$8,950,000

$9,200,000

$10,660,000

AJ Green

$16,574,000

$10,000,000

$10,500,000

$10,750,000

$12,176,000

Julio Jones

$11,824,000

$13,500,000

$11,500,000

$10,500,000

$12,500,000

$11,426,000

Brown doesn’t get as much fully guaranteed money as Jones or Green, but he gets much more at signing than both of them, which should be attractive to him. Adding in the last year of Brown’s current contract, this is how his yearly cap numbers would compute:

Antonio Brown Yearly Cap Numbers

Year

Base Salary

Prorated Signing Bonus

Roster Bonus

Cap Number

2017

$7,460,000

$13,108,334

$0

$20,568,334

2018

$4,780,000

$4,200,000

$3,660,000

$12,640,000

2019

$8,950,000

$4,200,000

$0

$13,150,000

2020

$9,200,000

$4,200,000

$0

$13,400,000

2021

$10,660,000

$4,200,000

$0

$14,860,000

*The 2017 prorated signing bonus is so high because of the multiple contract restructures that have been done on Brown’s previous deal.

This deal would make Antonio Brown the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL, and it should make both sides happy.

Eli (@Ebookstaber) is a big follower of every facet of the NFL: from the contracts, to the game-film, and to the Draft. He also writes for OvertimeIreland.com. Eli compiles their weekly power rankings and analyzes game film. Additionally, in the offseason he writes a variety of articles on free agency and the Draft. Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, Eli was brought up as a Redskins fan from the day he heard his dad yell at the TV as a little kid. 

  • Werner

    Why would they drive up his Cap number to 20M+ with a year remaining ? Even so you project them to have 38M Cap Space, they also have Timmons and Bell upcoming for new contracts and will need at least 9M to refill the roster to nominal strength. Could they even this out with 2018 P5 Guarantees and also a Roster Bonus in 2019?

    • Eli Bookstaber

      In a technical matter that would work, but the Steelers won’t guarantee more than the signing bonus and possible one roster bonus. By doing the extension with a year remaining on his current contract, the Steelers save themselves some cap room in future years.

  • NW86

    I’d actually say those are pretty conservative numbers for AB. As you said, he is the clear #1 and stays healthy (other than Burfict’s dirty hit in the playoffs last year). When other clear #1 players get extended they usually become the top paid by a pretty healthy margin. $15.25M doesn’t even cover cap inflation over Green’s contract from last year. Fitzgerald and Megatron both got over $16M way back in 2011 and 2012 when the cap was a fraction of what it is now, and those were the highest non-QB contracts at the time. Other non-QB’s are getting in the $19M range now, which is in line with the cap inflation since 2012. I would think Brown and Rosenhaus would argue for the $19M numbers, and won’t accept anything below Megatron’s $16.2M. And you are right about the Steelers never guaranteeing anything beyond year 1, so to make up for that I would expect to see the signing bonus in the $25M range.

    • Eli Bookstaber

      It’s possible that he could reach the $16M/year mark. As I stated in the article, that would be his ceiling.

      • NW86

        Right, but I’m saying $16.2M would be his floor.