Steelers and Antonio Brown Agree on $68M Contract

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport the Steelers and Antonio Brown have come to terms on a massive $68 million contract extension that will make him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL by over $2 million a season on an annual basis.

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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.

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Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Pittsburgh Steelers

We wrap up our look at the AFC North today with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Starting tomorrow or Saturday will be the AFC South, which we will kick off with the Texans.

Best: Antonio Brown, 5 years, $41.9 million, $8.5M guaranteed

I was a bit conflicted with this choice because if you go back to 2012 when this was signed Brown had one 1,100 yard season and his other year in the NFL produced less than 175 yards. Brown was a 6th round pick so it’s not as if he was a can’t miss prospect and he was not considered the number 1 receiver on the team at the time. That distinction went to Mike Wallace who was feuding with Steelers management over a contract. In many ways this contract was considered to be something of a message to Wallace that the Steelers were prepared to move on and he needed to report. So in many ways this was a risky contract. Continue reading Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Pittsburgh Steelers »

2016 Cap Analytics: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers possess six contracts – Timmons, Brown, Pouncey, Miller, Mitchell and Gilbert – that include more prorated signing bonus in 2016 than scheduled at the time of signing due to cap-related restructurings, a number that few teams can match.  The team’s salary cap management approach clearly skews toward maximizing the current roster at the potential expense of future rosters, an approach that creates a greater pressure to draft successfully than is faced by most teams.

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@ZackMooreNFL on Cameron Heyward via USA Today’s new Steelers Site!

@NealCoolong, formerly of Behind the Steel Curtain, now runs a Steelers website under the USA Today banner named, which is now the #1 spot for Steelers information on the Internet. He recently contacted me about answering some cap related questions about the Steelers for a piece. It’s a very interesting move by USA Today to have a site like this for each team and I think it’s a great idea for them to help build a credible voice in each marketplace, so I hope they continue to expand on this. Continue reading @ZackMooreNFL on Cameron Heyward via USA Today’s new Steelers Site! »

Steelers 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: -$2.63M ($140M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 61
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(2 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 22

Salary Cap Breakdown

Steelers 2015 Salary Cap

Steelers 2015 Offensive Spending

Steelers 2015 Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

I am not sure that a compelling case can be made to really keep any of the notable free agents on the roster. Brice McCain likely makes the most sense to keep as he played decently and is only 28 years old. McCain played for the minimum last season but should cost more than that this season. Probably best to sign a deal before free agency begins as I could see some worry about the cornerback market being dragged up because of the lack of talent available both in free agency and the draft…James Harrison played well in his role last year but will be 37 years old. If he is willing to do another minimum salary contract there is no downside risk, but it can’t be anything more than the minimum….Arthur Moats was a good situational rusher last year and should not cost much to keep on another one year deal. He shouldn’t receive much buzz in free agency especially since the field looks to be loaded this season.

Free Agents to Let Walk

The Steelers need to be very careful with Jason Worilds. Worilds is one of the most difficult types of players to work with on a long term deal because he can be terribly inconsistent and is not a top end pass rusher. But he shows more than enough flashes that he will draw interest in free agency. Given that the Steelers used the transition tag on him last season and he virtually had the same year as he did in 2013, he has no reason to really accept less than that number, and that’s too big a number to pay him…The Steelers took a shot on keeping Ike Taylor last year at a heavily discounted rate, but he only played in 5 games last season. There are not many players in the NFL that continue paying corner at his age (last year the others were T. Newman and R. Mathis) so this may be the end of the line for him.

Contracts to Modify

The first order of business for the Steelers really should be addressing the contract on Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is in the final year of his contract and the Steelers need to strike before either one of the young players (A. Luck or R. Wilson) signs a new contract to further push an overpriced QB market and before Eli Manning or Philip Rivers sign new contracts. While Roethlisberger has a $18.395 million cap number they shouldn’t use this extension as a way to bring that number significantly down. Designing a contract that works well for the next four seasons from a cap perspective should be the prime objective….Cameron Heyward has now put up back to back quality seasons after floundering his first two years. He has a $6.969 million figure this year and will be a free agent next season. He will only be 26 this year so locking him up seems like a good decision. They could hold off into the summer, which is the standard timing for the Steelers, but they might gain some cap flexibility doing it earlier….The team might consider converting salary into bonus money for wide receiver Antonio Brown. While he is dramatically underpaid he is likely one more season away from considering trying to force his way into a new contract. They can create around $3.5 million in cap room with the restructure…Lawrence Timmons might be considered for a restructure as well, but he only has one more season remaining past this one which limits the savings of the restructure. If they need to bring his $12.5 million cap figure down they need to begin the process of a signing him to a 3 year extension…Starting defensive tackle Steve McLendon is in the final year of his contract and could be considered for an extension.

Players to Consider Releasing

Pittsburgh will have a tough decision to make on Safety Troy Polamalu who has an $8.25 million cap charge and $6 million salary.  The Steelers extended Polamalu last season, but it was really a salary cap deferral written up as a new contract. Polamalu does not have the impact that he used to and he may even consider retirement. Releasing him would save the Steelers $3.75 million in cap room. If he doesn’t retire I would expect the team to approach him on a pay cut that is equal to the savings if released, but I believe that they will go into this thinking his days in Pittsburgh are over…The Steelers signed Cortez Allen to a new contract last season worth around $6 million a season and he was awful.  The Steelers only guarantees in their deals are typically signing bonus money so they may consider cutting Allen to avoid paying him another $5.63 million this year. Cutting him saves the team $1.58 million….The team had another miss when they surprisingly hit free agency to sign Mike Mitchell for $5 million a season. Mitchell will earn $4 million this year and was poor in coverage last year.   His release saves the team $1.15 million….The team has a number of players like veteran receiver Lance Moore and QB Bruce Gradkowski that save the team around $1.5 million if cut.

Offseason Plan

Pittsburgh is a very hard team to get a handle on. Last year there were weeks where they looked like the best team in the NFL.  There were also weeks where they lost to some of the worst teams in the NFL. They are plagued by inconsistency and their defense is in need of an overhaul.

Due to a combination of injuries and ineffective play the Steelers only had four defensive players start at least 14 games. That list includes Worilds, who is a free agent, and Mitchell, who struggled. Only 7 started more than 10 games.

As is typical for the Steelers they will be right up against the salary cap this season and have to scramble to make some space. Restructuring Brown should make them cap compliant and moving on from Polamalu will give them a little bit of breathing room. Cutting a few backups should put them around $8 million in space and that is with keeping Allen and Mitchell if they don’t believe they can upgrade them in the draft.

I would not expect much activity in free agency for the Steelers given what seems to be limited resources, plus in general they are not a big free agent splash kind of team. Expect the team to go bargain hunting for veterans or players coming off a rookie contract that were considered disappointments and not generating much interest.

The draft is where the Steelers will make their mark and hope to build on their 11-5 season. The offense is pretty well situated but I would expect the Steelers to go heavy looking for help in the secondary as well as new additions to the linebacker rotation. Their offense should be good enough to let the team have a transitional year defensively to get as many new, young faces in as possible to build the next chapter for the franchise.

Steelers Links

Steelers Salary Cap Pages

Steelers Free Agents

Steelers Contracts

Steelers GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Steelers Free Agent Simulator

A Closer Look at Marcus Gilbert’s Contract Extension

I usually try to take a little deeper look at the contracts on the site and wanted to do the same with the contract of Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert since I had a few questions about him. I think the prevailing analysis is that he received $6 million a year in new money which places him in a logjam for fourth highest compensated right tackle in the NFL. But when you look closer at the numbers I think a strong case can be made that in a true contract valuation Gilbert is going to be the highest paid right tackle in the league.

There are two considerations that should come into valuing a contract. The first is the yearly cash flow component that shows the was that the salary is actually distributed. Is it a heavily front loaded contract?  Is it backloaded?  Is it a steady stream of salary?

The following table provides the cumulative money that each player will earn over the course of his contract. Each cell is color coded to indicate the likelihood of the money being earned. Green means its essentially guaranteed, yellow is a year where it is probably 50/50 that it is earned, and red means don’t start counting that money until you get that far into the contract.

Right Tackle Market

The first thing that jumps out to me is how strong the frontside of Gilbert’s contract is. Only Cherilus will earn more in year one, but over the first two and three years of the contract no player will earn more than Gilbert, despite the fact that Cherilus, Loadholt, and Davis all earn more on an annual basis.


Gilbert actually received a higher signing bonus than everyone on the list except Cherilus, though Loadholt’s signing bonus is effectively more since he signed for four years rather than five. Because of that his contract is as well protected as almost anyone else on the list.  The exceptions are Cherilus and Howard, and in both cases the protections they received may have been a team error. In the case of the Oakland Raiders it was clearly an error (they paid Howard a roster bonus too soon which turned it into a signing bonus). The Colts got hit with a little known rule called the 50% rule that turned Cherilus’ signing bonus from $10 million to $14.5 million for accounting purposes. I tend to think Indianapolis simply did not pay attention to the rule but that is just a baseless opinion.

All things considered I think you can make a strong case that Gilbert received either the best or second best contract at the position based on expected earnings. Does that make it a bad contract for the team?  I guess it depends on your perspective. Gilbert is the second youngest of the group to sign so there is a greater upside for him to perform well.  His deal also reflects the large cap increase that was not in play when Cherilus, Davis, and Loadholt signed.


Negatively the contract did not offer anywhere near the protections that the 49ers insisted on received from Davis.  It did not have the no bonus provision of the Collins contract, which was also supposed to be the structure of the Howard contract.  So I do think it’s fair to say the Steelers could have asked for more concessions considering he and Davis are the only players under a true extension where the teams held contractual leverage over the player at the time of signing.

I don’t think that the $6 million a year figure is necessarily too high, which is something I have read in a few spots. While he doesn’t have a huge track record and has never stood out in Pro Football Focus the way others have, he is a logical comparison to other limited sample players like Collins and Howard who both earned $6 million a year as free agents. As a 2nd rounder he also carries much more cache than the other two which will play a role.

The Steelers were not going to be able to lowball him into a $4 million  per year contract. For that to eventually happen they would have had to wait out the year, a portion of free agency, and kept crossing their fingers that nobody bites. Again seeing what Howard received on the market it’s unrealistic to think he could have gotten that much less.  So while they may have been able to work within the $6 million per year parameters more effectively coming in far under that dollar figure was never going to happen.