Pittsburgh Steelers: Explaining Antonio Brown’s trade value

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with Antonio Brown #84 during warmups before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on September 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with Antonio Brown #84 during warmups before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on September 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are accepting trade negotiations for Antonio Brown, but a value on the receiver has yet to be cemented.

The hot topic inside NFL circles has to be the uncertain future of disgruntled Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro WR Antonio Brown. The Steelers 2010 sixth-round pick (No. 195) has been vocal about his displeasure with the organization after the recent reported blowup between him and franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger.

An incident that took place during practice, on the team’s final week of the season, Brown was coincidentally held out of the season finale due to a knee injury. However, reports indicate otherwise.

According to Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the four-time All-Pro  was actually dismissed from the season finale due to disciplinary reasons.

Roethlisberger, a weekly guest on 93.7 The Fan, shed some light on the situation while  downplaying any perceived turmoil between him and his No. 1 wide receiver. Roethlisberger said if Brown did blowup during practice, “he sure didn’t see it.”

Since the incident, there seems to be a strong rift between Brown and the Steelers organization. Steelers owner Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette it was hard to see Brown returning to the team.

“As we sit here today, it’s hard to envision that. But there’s no sense on closing the door on anything today. There’s snow on the ground. We don’t have to make those decisions right now.” Rooney said.

Brown then fired back with an instagram post of him wearing a San Francisco 49ers jersey.

Aside from that, Brown took it a step further, consulting with former San Francisco 49ers WR Jerry Rice and WR Terrell Owens on the current situation.

On 95.7 The Game, Rice shed some light saying Brown wanted to be traded to the Niners. “Yeah. He wants to come here really bad,” Rice said in an interview on the radio station. There is no reason for Rice to lie, so hearing this should be concerning for the Steelers Nation.

Owens then echoed Rice’s findings when asked whether he got the impression that Brown wants  out of Pittsburgh. “Absolutely. He wants to move on, I don’t like how Ben [Roethlisberger] has kind of thrown him under the bus in certain instances, I think Ben owes him a lot more respect than he has given him, I mean even from the standpoint of him saying he didn’t know anything about a blowup [at practice prior to Week 17] when he was part of the blowup.”

Owens then went on to say, San Francisco was his preferred destination. “I talked to him on a couple of occasions, and I’m not here to air anybody’s messages or conversations, but he’s asked me how the Bay Area was on several occasions,” Owens said.

To think that Brown and the Steelers can reconcile their differences is being extremely optimistic. I honestly don’t see it happening, especially after what has been said over social media.

Which begs the question, where does Brown likely go and what is the likely compensation for Brown’s services?

To figure that out, we first need to breakdown the ramifications of Brown’s lucrative four-year contract worth up to $68 million. A contract signed last off-season, Brown’s contract carries a huge financial strain on the team’s salary cap, due to his hefty signing bonus.

If Brown was traded, the Steelers would immediately need to account for the “dead money” involved which is a whopping $21.12 million. For those who don’t know, “dead money” is the guaranteed money left on a player’s contract at the time he is let go.

Furthermore, the trade would need to take place before the fifth day of the new league-year (March 18), as that’s when his $2.5 million roster bonus also becomes due. In turn, this creates not only more financial strain for the organization, but a higher degree of urgency to make a trade happen, sooner rather than later.

Simply put, If the Steelers were to trade their All-Pro wide receiver now, there is little financial gain from a salary cap perspective, but instead would create a huge salary cap hit, making it difficult to sign highly prized free-agents.

So is the trade worth it? I’m a firm believer in building team chemistry from the ground up, while maintaining a healthy locker room dynamic. It doesn’t matter how good a player performs on the field, if that player isn’t a team player or doesn’t take ownership for their own actions.

Unfortunately for Brown, he can’t undo the damage that’s already taken place. Randomly following the 49ers twitter account, while also hinting at playing for them via social media, is not the Steeler way. Whether he was unhappy or not, the damage is already done, and the team must move on.

But what’s Brown’s market-value in terms of compensation?

While teams like the 49ers have been rumored to be a likely landing spot, I don’t see that happening.

From 49ers GM John Lynch’s point of view, it wouldn’t make sense for a number of reasons.  The first being Brown’s age, 31.

The Niners aren’t one or two players away from being Super Bowl contenders, which makes any trade for Brown questionable. The only logical reason a team would trade for Brown today, is if they are one or two pieces away from being Super Bowl bound, as Brown is currently in his prime.

Teams like the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Cowboys would all be viable destinations while creating a perfect storm for both parties. And while the Kansas City Chiefs are also a good fit, trading him within the same conference would be counter-productive.

If the 49ers were to trade for Brown, not only will Brown be past his prime when his contract expires but would the Niners even be playoff contenders at that point?

Also, the team would likely have to relinquish at minimum a second-round pick as compensation. That’s not smart for a team trying to rebuild via the draft. Let’s be honest, the 49ers are not one or two players away from making a Super Bowl run. They have glaring needs at almost every position and need all the draft capital they can get.

In today’s NFL, you build via the draft and complement the remaining needs in free-agency without paying a king’s ransom. That’s how winning teams are built, case in point, the gold standard for the better part of the last two decades, New England Patriots.

So while Brown may be an All-Pro talent, the number of NFL teams willing to trade for his services are slim based on his age, 31. To put that in perspective, the 49ers traded away three-time All-Pro WR Terrell Owens to the Philadelphia Eagles, who at the time was 30, in his prime, getting next to nothing in return.

In a three-team trade between the Baltimore Ravens, 49ers, and Eagles, all it took to complete that lopsided deal, was returning a second-round pick, conditional fifth-round pick and DE Brandon Whiting.

The Eagles received Owens, the Ravens were returned their initial second-round pick from San Francisco while gaining a conditional fifth-round pick from Philadelphia, and the Niners received Whiting.

In all, a steal of a deal for the Eagles, who essentially gave up close to nothing to land the problematic yet extremely talented wide receiver from Tennessee-Chattanooga.

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While Brown may be the gold standard at wide receiver, it’s evident that any team vying for his services would need to account for the financial strain, short-term gratification, and long-term effects, he brings to the table. A sure-fire future Hall of Fame player, it will be interesting to see what his future holds, as the verdict is still out.