Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Feb 2017

Steelers Make Antonio Brown Highest-Paid WR in NFL

Antonio Brown is gonna get paid. It's a four-year deal at $68 million, but front-loaded. That's interesting because it should help the Steelers keep Brown all four years. It will be $18.5 million the first three years, $12.5 million in 2020. Brown is the best wide receiver in the game -- you can argue Julio Jones, though I'll still take Brown. Our stats absolutely love him. He was No. 1 in DYAR in both 2014 and 2015, two of the top ten seasons in DYAR history. He had an off-year in 2016 and still finished No. 7. Also, he makes the NFL fun.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Feb 2017

12 comments, Last at 07 Apr 2017, 5:59pm by Tomlin_Is_Infallible


by Theo :: Mon, 02/27/2017 - 7:49pm

There might be a debate if Brown or Jones is better - Jones probably puts up more stats.
But Brown, I'm serious, might be one of the best players I have ever seen. He can turn short passes into long gains like the best possession receivers like Welker, Ward, Boldin; he can run intermediate routes and lose a corner for a first downs like Rice, Wayne, Owens and he can beat you with speed like Harrison, Holt and again Rice or Owens.
He's deadly in punt returns, but I wish they don't put him there - and the player is fun as hell to watch on top of that.

The Steelers have a history of letting productive receivers go (Burress, El, Sanders, Wallace and Holmes come to mind) but I think they do the right thing of getting him paid.
The window is closing for Ben, and getting the playmakers signed is priority number 1 - with pass rusher being 1B.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 02/27/2017 - 11:42pm

if you really believe it's win or bust on Ben's closing window (and I do), I think you have to trade up in the draft for a legit day 1 difference maker.

I'd sign 2 OLB in FA and draft Hooker.

It will be interesting to see what Brown does if Bryant comes back with his head on and Coates' hand heals right. I see lots of James, Brown and Bell in those interior stacked/triangle set looks out of the spread with Bryant and Coates out wide.

The standard is the standard!

by MJK :: Mon, 02/27/2017 - 8:08pm

I don't know...maybe it's recency bias, but having just watched both of them in the playoffs against the Patriots, I'm going to say I'd argue for Jones. Brown is an amazing ordinary sized receiver. Jones is an amazing beast. I don't know which was the more amazing play he made recently--the circus catch that almost won the Superbowl, or the short run he turned into a long TD, beast-mode style.

Put another way...The Patriots shut Brown down with Malcolm Butler, a good but not legendary corner, one-on-one.

The Patriots dedicated their biggest corner and their best safety to Jones for the entire game--and he still almost beat them.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 02/28/2017 - 1:42pm

Brown also has been notably healthy, and Jones is frequently nicked up and has missed some games or more frequently just has reduced effectiveness and maybe sits out for a bit. Brown has a pretty ridiculous catch rate considering how many targets he gets, and does seem to be a guy who can do it all.

No doubt that Julio Jones physically is an utter freak of nature and can do things nobody else can do, but Antonio Brown just seems to do everything you could possibly do as a receiver incredibly well.

by MC2 :: Tue, 02/28/2017 - 4:52pm

Good point about health. When Julio is at 100%, he's probably the best WR in the league. But he frequently plays at somewhere around 80%, which is probably still better than a lot of #1 WRs at 100%, but definitely not as good as Brown at 100%.

by TomC :: Tue, 02/28/2017 - 12:51am

If 18.5 is the price for the best in the game then I don't blame the Bears for not giving Jeffery 17 with the tag. It will be interesting to see what kind of offers he gets.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 02/28/2017 - 7:38am

So arguably the best at WR/PR ... but is it an effective place to be spending cap money? Especially if it opens an expectation from other Steelers WRs that they'll pay that sort of money. It's about 10% of the salary cap.

By comparison the Patriots WR account for 18% of the cap (about $6million each for Edelman, Amendola, Hogan) but Gronk makes their offense better. He gets around $9 million but that was signed in 2013-14. Bennett only got paid about $5 last year but has turned down an offer of $7m.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 03/28/2017 - 2:33pm

I think the Brown contract is an indication that they intend to let the other WRs and TEs go, if necessary. You can get by at WR2, WR3, and TE with 8% of your cap if you mostly have players on rookie deals. And the Steelers can.

With Brown, all they really need is a few warm bodies, preferably tall ones with ball skills to play single coverage, but bodies if nothing else. Brown demands at least a cornerback plus someone cheating from a deep zone or he'll just kill you because he runs better routes than anyone since Larry Fitzgerald was in his prime.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Fri, 04/07/2017 - 5:59pm

the steelers have a HUGE # tied up in WR2

he just happens to carry the ball a lot too

The standard is the standard!

by RBroPF :: Tue, 02/28/2017 - 8:42am

I think you have to look at what you're spending on the entire WR/TE corps. In 2017, the Steelers still have Bryant, Coates, James, Rogers and Hamilton on rookie contracts. So it's really Brown and Green making up a $19.7 million cap hit which is reasonable. After 2017 though, only Coates will still be on his rookie contract, so they'll need to draft some more successful WRs and TEs in order to keep the cap for that group reasonable. Of course, they're probably confident that they can do that.

by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 03/01/2017 - 4:52pm

Pat Kirwan on SiriusXM had an interesting way of looking to find out how top-heavy a team may be:

What percentage of the cap is consumed by the three biggest contracts (cap-wise) on the team (regardless of position)?

The figure he gave for Pittsburgh (currently) was something like 26.5%, with Big Ben, Brown under the new contract, and Bell under the tag.

By comparison, Detroit had, like, 33% at the time they Stafford, Megatron, and Suh at the same time.

I'm not arguing that Pittsburgh's not doing the right thing, I just think it's interesting to look at the different team circumstances.

by ChrisS :: Thu, 03/02/2017 - 12:41pm

That was different era, these three were all early 1st rounders, were all still on their rookie contracts, and were paid way too much (Stafford), way way way too much (Suh) and just right (Megatron). The way the Lions fell apart was part of why the new rookie pay scale was adopted. I would think Pittsburgh's concentration would be near the top of the league and it will probably hinder their deal making ability and force them to use more rookies.