The news of where the Steelers wide receiver landed generated very little interest in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers already have the best group of wide receivers in the NFL. When it came to Antonio Brown‘s availability, the Bucs were set.
NFL teams know they have to build a team and live within the structure of the salary cap. With how long it can take to develop a homegrown talent, the thought of a superstar player of any position, specifically one that can be so crucial to an offense’s success or failure, throwing a fit, demanding a trade, or just refusing to play is something no NFL personnel department wants to ever think about.
Are the Steelers happy to get a player out of the building who didn’t want to be there? The short answer would be yes. Are the Steelers excited that instead of keeping one of the best wideouts in football for $22.12 million, they will get a 3rd– and 5th-round draft pick and, most importantly, be on the hook for $21.1 million dollars of Antonio Brown’s precious signing bonus? Fans have to assume that’s a definite no.
Unless the Steelers draft another Antonio Brown in the 6th round as a punt returner, and they have no holes to fill with that 21.1 million lost dollars, then maybe this is nothing more than Monday morning indigestion.
But is the NFL “all good” with these types of situations moving forward? We’re not even having the “he signed a contract, he should honor it” conversation here. But the part that makes general managers turn over from a deep sleep and begin pacing at night has to be that the superstar that just got a new contract. And so many hours were put into the bonus and the proration of the bonus and thinking about how to work with this contract with all other negotiations on the horizon—only to have a player suddenly decide that they aren’t getting paid, respected, or appreciated enough. Instantly all of those number crunching, contract valuations, and salary cap plans go completely out the door.
The ones who pay—besides the teams that have to clean this mess up—are the fans. The fans who trusted a player was going to be ballin’ for their team for the near future. Fans who had no problem mortgaging the future via a signing bonus salary cap hit because this player was the future and all would work out.
Antonio Brown finds himself in black and silver now, no longer in Steeler black and yellow. Instead of asking a superstar if they “bleed” the colors of their respective teams, the team has to ask itself if they can still be successful when bleeding the money it will take to cover dead money signing bonuses of players who decided to take their talents elsewhere.
Who will the next Antonio Bryant be? Which team will have to eat a signing bonus because a player decides to take their ball and go home?
Because the signing bonus is at once the largest chunk of change a player will receive in a contract and must be spread over the length of said contract, making a team eat that entire sum in one season if the player decides to bolt just doesn’t seem like good faith business. The NFL might want to address this issue like yesterday.