The Antonio Brown situation continues to get weirder and weirder by the day. Now just a few days before the Raiders season opener Brown has requested his release after the Raiders informed him that his salary guarantees no longer exist due to his conduct.
I just got an email from Antonio Brown. He tells me the team “took away my guarantees.” He added there’s “no way I play after they took that and made my contract week to week.” So at this moment, once again, don’t expect AB to play on Monday Night Football.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 7, 2019
Still the situation is not exactly cut and dry. While everyone goes crazy these days for guarantees I have long been of the belief that they are so easy to void, especially for players that have a history of issues, that focusing on guaranteed salary is not really all it is cracked up to be. You can void guarantees for a number of reasons, such as not willingly practicing, being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, PED violations, and so on. When team issues occur the team has to prove that the player has indeed warranted the punishment which also results in the void occurring.
Brown has had numerous transactions that should satisfy the requirements to void the guarantees. He was out of practice due to a non football related injury. He held himself out of practice due to not liking his helmet. He went after the GM in a heated exchange over a fine he received which officially began the paper trail from Raiders GM Mike Mayock necessary for the void. He then missed practice due to the confrontation. He posted a phone call with his head coach in a slick video. He was fined, though not the maximum amount, for conduct detrimental. He asked for his release so Im assuming he wont be with the Raiders today.
If the Raiders release Brown they would only take a miniscule charge on the salary cap of $333,333 which is from his guaranteed workout bonus. Per a source he did not earn that bonus so the team would get a credit on the cap for that number in 2020. However it is possible that Brown would file a grievance over his lost guarantees. If a grievance is filed the Raiders would immediately take on a charge of $11.95 million until the case is heard.
Sometimes these grievances can go on forever. Other times they can be quick. If the Raiders lost the grievance they would then take a full $29.875 million salary cap hit and cash charge this year. Not only is that a fortune to pay for a player who never played a snap for the team but it would push them over the 2019 salary cap, forcing them to quickly restructure other contracts to comply with the cap.
Things are also complicated if the Raiders do not release or suspend Brown for the first game of the season. If Brown is on the roster he would receive full protection of his 2019 (but not 2020) $14.625 million salary through the Termination Pay protection provided to veterans in the CBA. Termination pay can also be voided through actions where the team demonstrates that the player is not putting forth a good faith effort to fulfill his contract. Again this requires written warnings, and so on, so it would mean needing more drama in the regular season. (edit per Adam Schefter the team already has done this) If not on the roster for week 1 the only 25% of the players salary is guaranteed through Termination Pay. That is certainly a big number but not the full amount.
Teams have the right to fine a player up to one weeks pay and/or suspend him for up to four weeks for conduct detrimental to the team. While the Raiders already fined him I do believe they can still suspend him based on how I read the CBA. That may be the most likely outcome.
During this entire process that has occurred I have wondered a few times if this is simply Brown looking to retire from the NFL or maybe just get to play for a different team. This is where there is an entirely different consideration. Brown’s contract was traded from the Steelers to the Raiders. With a trade the acquiring team retains the rights to recover any remaining signing bonus prorations from a contract via the forfeiture clauses of the NFL CBA.
The bonus that Brown received from the Steelers was $19 million, $11.4 million of which is still outstanding. The Raiders, if Brown walks away from the team, have the right to recover $11.4 million from Brown in addition to not paying him his guaranteed salary. If Brown is released the Raiders do not recover that money.
That is such a significant amount of money that it should really complicate matters. Unlike the retirement of Andrew Luck which had more support from his team this is a completely fractured relationship. I can not imagine the Raiders simply letting Brown walk away without issue if things get there.
If Brown is released there is no team in the NFL after what has transpired that would touch him for the kind of salary he has from the Raiders. There are teams that would certainly take a chance if he wants to play but there would be no guarantees Im sure.
He has tried to mend fences so many times with the Raiders Im not sure if they can do so again. If they can the way to do it is to probably rework his contract again where both sides would need to show faith in the other. A compromise would be to split his salary this year between 46 man bonuses and base salary and then have a guarantee kick in for 2020 if he remains cordial with the organization through not missing practices, strong participation, no suspensions, etc… through 12 or more games. But I think the Raiders have to protect themselves if they try to do this again to not get stuck with the full salary if they don’t play him in a given week.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.