Calculating the Steelers' Antonio Brown salary cap math –

PITTSBURGH — It’s going to cost money for the Steelers to get rid of Antonio Brown.

Art Rooney II made clear to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday Brown isn’t getting released, but that as things stand he’s quite likely to be traded. In addition to shifting the balance of power in the Steelers locker room, the AFC North and arguably the NFL as a whole, such a move will also affect Pittsburgh’s salary cap situation.

Timing is the most essential factor in figuring out to what extent a trade of Brown does just that. We’ll walk you through it all. And, as we’ve found with these breakdowns in the past, we’ll start with the biggest number and work our way down.

Currently – $22,165,000

This is Brown’s cap hit for 2019. If he and the Steelers patch up their relationship or for any other reason they don’t trade him, it’s the only number that matters with respect to the star receiver.

It’s the sum of his $12,625,000 base salary for 2019, a $3.8 million prorated portion of his signing bonus, the $2.5 million roster bonus due to him on March 17 – more on that in a moment – a $3.24 prorated portion of his roster bonus

If they trade him before March 17 – $21.2 million

That’s his cap hit to a Steelers team he wouldn’t be playing for. Pittsburgh has a projected salary cap of about $196 million in 2019.

If they trade him after March 17 – $23.7 million

He’s owed $2.5 million by whichever team he’s on at that point. So if Pittsburgh can’t trade him from the time the NFL league years starts on March 13-17, the Steelers are looking at giving $2.5 million of real and cap money to a player their owner has said he trouble envisioning being in next season’s training camp.

Add the $2.5 million to the pre-March 17 $21.2 million and that’s how the Steelers get to this weighty cap figure.

Consider this leverage against the Steelers in any trade negotiations.

If they trade him after June 1 – It’s complicated

2019 cap hit – $9.54 million

As in all his bonus figures – $3.8 million signing proration + $2.5 million roster bonus + $3.24 million restructure bonus – are all that count against this year’s cap hit.

That would, however, be followed by:

2020 cap hit – $14.08 million

As if he had played 2019 with the Steelers only to be cut before the 2020 season. Essentially the Steelers would get to spread out this year’s cap penalty across two league years.

Of these scenarios it is both the easiest to plan for and the least likely to happen. Pittsburgh is likely to be in better bargaining position prior to the draft. The team would want to get any players it gets in return for Brown integrated with the team in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. And frankly it would help all front offices involve figure out their draft plans more readily.

What happens with the other player’s or players’ cap hit(s)?

It depends. If a given player’s contract comes with base salary guarantees, the trade partner has to take on that cap hit — not the Steelers. But if the player’s contract is structured like Steelers contracts are, all the incoming salary and bonuses are Pittsburgh’s problem.

Barring a sharp swing in relations, the Brown fallout will have left the Steelers front office with harder cap math than they’ve had to carry and solve for in some time.

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