In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise
The Steelers have had a longstanding policy to not rework non-quarterbacks' contracts with multiple years remaining, but nothing was said about giving a player an advance on his pay.
An industry source Tuesday confirmed the Steelers took $2 million of Antonio Brown's 2016 contract and converted it to a signing bonus this season. That bumps Brown's salary this season to $8 million, which is more in line with some of the top receivers in the NFL.
Brown signed a five-year extension in 2012 for $42 million but has outperformed his contract with consecutive 100-plus catch seasons.
Brown confirmed the restructuring and raise after practice Tuesday.
“They could've told me to stick to my original deal,” Brown said. “I am deeply grateful and have tremendous gratitude. They didn't have to do it. It just shows what they think about me.”
Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, used a similar negotiation ploy with the New England Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski earlier in training camp.
Although there is no new money involved, reworking Brown's deal was a way to keep the player and team happy. Brown wanted the Steelers to reconsider their contract policy. The Steelers wanted to stand pat with their policy. This way, both sides win.
The Steelers could move money ahead via another restructuring next year that would bring Brown to the final year of his deal — it expires after the 2017 season. It then could be reworked under the organization's policy.
Brown wouldn't say whether there was a plan to restructure again next year.
“We were singularly focused on this year,” he said.
The Steelers have made exceptions with reworking deals with more than a year remaining on them, but they did so only for quarterbacks.
They extended Tommy Maddox's contract in 2004 with two years left on it, and did the same with Ben Roethlisberger on his second deal. However, Roethlisberger was forced to wait until the final year of his deal before signing a long-term extension in March.
The Steelers never have extended a position player with more than a year left on an existing deal. After being named to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2001-03, receiver Hines Ward wanted a new contract in 2004 despite having two years left on his deal. The Steelers refused even though Maddox was extended by a year just months earlier.
“There were a lot of great players around here, and I don't think they ever did such a thing like that,” Brown said. “I tip my hat to them.”
Brown, a two-time All-Pro, has amassed 239 receptions — the most in the NFL — during the previous two seasons. That includes a franchise-record 129 receptions for 1,698 yards last season. Brown also caught 13 touchdowns, helping lead the team to an 11-5 record and the AFC North title.