PHOENIX — The Pittsburgh Steelers had apparent causes to commerce huge receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders. His presence in Pittsburgh grew to become untenable after he skipped work and disparaged the group.
Brown needed a brand new contract the Steelers had been by no means going to provide him. And conserving an All-Professional malcontent on the roster risked stunting the expansion of younger gamers equivalent to huge receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
However some NFL decision-makers are involved concerning the potential ramifications of the puzzling finish to the Brown saga.
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A number of high-ranking sources on the NFL homeowners conferences instructed ESPN that Brown forcing his approach out of a contract with three years left would possibly set a precedent that gamers can do what they need. One supply went so far as to say that Brown basically treating himself like a free agent, then getting a brand new cope with Oakland through commerce, is “harmful” for groups anticipating gamers to honor contracts.
“It’s an issue. Different star gamers see this and would possibly need to do the identical,” one supply stated. “I do know the Steelers had a troublesome scenario and wanted to eliminate him. However they’d different choices.”
One possibility was clear-cut: Preserve Brown on the roster, then high quality him if he skipped minicamp, betting any retirement threats could be empty as a result of Brown would owe greater than $11 million in prorated signing-bonus cash.
As a substitute, the Steelers inherited $21.12 million in lifeless cash to deal Brown to Oakland in alternate for third- and fifth-round picks. Pittsburgh had Brown underneath contract for 3 extra years at a complete of $38.925 million. Now, Brown has a three-year cope with Oakland value $50.125 million, together with $30.125 million assured.
Whereas some execs had been sympathetic to the Steelers’ plight with Brown and acknowledge trades of key gamers are pretty widespread league-wide, many had been stunned a franchise recognized for sound enterprise dealt him with out a lot of a combat
“It was a really un-Steeler-like transfer,” one supply stated.
The Steelers aren’t apologizing for it. Coach Mike Tomlin stated the connection with Brown ran its course. Normal supervisor Kevin Colbert cited the Steelers’ upgraded draft capital. The group now holds 4 of the highest 83 picks in April’s draft.
“We’re in a lot better form draftwise than we had been previous to that commerce,” Colbert stated.
Antonio Brown handled himself as a free agent regardless of having three years on his Steelers contract, based on one supply on the NFL homeowners conferences. Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire
However for NFL gamers who need higher contracts, Brown’s energy play would possibly as effectively be a rallying cry.
The Steelers have been a testing floor of kinds for star gamers with conviction to problem the system. Operating again Le’Veon Bell sat out the 2018 season with out signing his franchise tag as a result of he believed the group’s contract construction — guaranteeing solely the signing bonus — was an issue for gamers, particularly operating backs with shorter shelf lives. Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million cope with the New York Jets within the first week of free company.
The best way Bell sees it, aggressive pushes for ensures gained’t finish anytime quickly.
“I’ve seen too many accidents to not worth that,” Bell stated concerning the want for increased ensures. “I’ve seen the Steelers just about minimize Troy Polamalu, a future Corridor of Famer. [Polamalu retired with two years left on his contract.] AB did what he felt was finest for him. My scenario was totally different, however we each needed to get our truthful worth. That’s what each participant desires.”
A number of veteran NFL brokers, nonetheless, say Brown’s strategies usually are not cheap for many of the league.
Brown is extensively thought of a top-10 participant, and he did no matter attainable to rankle the Steelers’ group.
“He was loopy sufficient to drag this off,” one veteran agent stated. “Most guys aren’t wired that approach. The contracts and guidelines are in place.”
In the meantime, NFL coaches are left to handle participant relations within the midst of cash disputes.
After 11 years with the Baltimore Ravens, coach John Harbaugh has discovered to separate the enterprise and soccer sides. Every participant has his private enterprise that Harbaugh respects, however he is aware of what to say if a participant asks for recommendation.
“Often being an excellent teammate, competitor and taking part in rather well takes care of the enterprise facet of it,” Harbaugh stated. “That’s the recommendation you attempt to give guys. When you play rather well, you’re gonna receives a commission. When you’re an excellent man and an excellent chief and make everyone round you higher, you’ll receives a commission much more. That’s normally an excellent enterprise determination guys make.
“You make these [holdout] choices at your individual danger. I’m a coach. I imagine in working onerous, being productive, being an excellent man, making individuals round you higher.”
That’s what Tomlin desires too, citing the necessity for “good guys who need to be right here” within the aftermath of the Bell and Brown departures. Tomlin additionally seems unfazed by NFL enterprise. Regardless of serving to draft Brown within the sixth spherical and training him for 9 seasons, he summarized Brown’s conduct with a easy line: “I’m disillusioned. I’ll depart it at that.”
Teaching in 2019 has Tomlin prepared for absolutely anything.
“Gamers are altering,” Tomlin stated. “I believe the sport evolves. I believe all of us evolve. Info and know-how are part of it. I believe that’s only a signal of the occasions. I don’t suppose that’s in any approach revolutionary.”