APRIL 27, 10:41am: A week after it was reported that Brown wouldn’t attend the Steelers’ offseason program, he is in attendance today, according to photos posted by the team’s official Twitter account. As Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com note (Twitter links), the wideout is still seeking a new contract, but has decided to take a different approach to the negotiations by reporting to workouts.
APRIL 20, 10:07am: Antonio Brown was arguably the league’s best wide receiver in 2014, leading the NFL in both receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698). Now, it appears the Steelers wideout is looking for a new contract that better reflects that production.
According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, Brown won’t attend Pittsburgh’s offseason workout, and is mulling possibly holding out for minicamp and training camp as well, as he seeks a new deal. Garafolo adds that the receiver and his camp have approached the team about redoing his contract.
Brown, a former sixth-round pick, signed his first big, long-term contract in 2012, agreeing to a five-year, $41.7MM pact. That deal pays him over $8MM per year, but that annual average value is outside the top 10 at his position, and places him behind players like Victor Cruz and Pierre Garcon.
Presumably, Brown would want a bump in salary to at least the $11MM per year range, which is what this year’s top free agent wideout, Jeremy Maclin, received. Of course, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were kept off the free agent market with franchise tags that will pay them salaries worth $12.823MM in 2015, so perhaps Brown will be seeking an annual salary closer to that neighborhood.
Although 2014 was the first time Brown led the league in either catches or receptions, his first All-Pro season certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. In 2013, the 26-year-old racked up 110 catches and 1,499 yards, placing him second in the NFL in both categories.
While the Steelers don’t have a ton of cap space available this year, a new deal for Brown could reduce his $9.788MM cap number, so that shouldn’t be an issue. However, the team should be wary of adding too significantly to the later years of Brown’s deal — he’s already slated for cap hits of $12MM+ in 2016 and nearly $11MM in 2017, and a new signing bonus would increase those figures if his future salaries aren’t reduced.