Get ready for the shirtless driveway sit-ups and the “next question” press conferences.
Much of the week has been dominated by the question of whether the Steelers still want receiver Antonio Brown. The equally important question is whether Brown still wants the Steelers.
Early Saturday morning on Twitter, Brown made this statement: “System where you have no leverage.” The comment came while retweeting a Sporting News story regarding Peter King’s comment from Friday’s PFT Live that King removed Brown from King’s All-Pro ballot after he went AWOL before the Week 17 game against the Bengals..
Brown surely wasn’t referring to the “system” of voting on the All-Pro team. Brown was referring to the “system” that is the business relationship between NFL player and NFL team.
He’s wrong about having no leverage. He has limited leverage, and he’s previously chosen not to use it. On two separate occasions during his career, Brown opted to sign lucrative extensions. Most recently, he signed a deal early in the 2017 offseason, with one year remaining on his contract. No one forced him to sign either of those contracts; he could have played them out, collected franchise-tag salaries for two seasons, and then hit the open market.
And Brown already knows this, unless he hasn’t been paying attention to his own locker room. Running back Le'Veon Bell used his leverage in 2017 (by staying away while under the tag until Week One) and in 2018 (by skipping the whole season). Bell will hit the open market in March.
Brown, now 30, will have a hard time pulling that off. He’s under contract for three more years. He’s only getting to the market if he gets cut. And trying to get cut could be his next move.
Thus, 14 years after T.O. made a conscious decision to do what he had to do to get the Eagles to cut or trade him (it eventually worked), Brown could be thinking about doing the same thing. Which means that we’ll now wait for the next development in the NFL’s latest “next question” drama.