Steelers receiver Antonio Brown earns $2.5 million on March 17. But he doesn’t receive it then. And that undercuts one of the biggest arguments in favor of trading him before then.
PFT has obtained a copy of the contract that Brown signed last March, and it specifies that the $2.5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2019 league year will be paid out in 17 weekly installments throughout the 2019 season. That works out to $147,058.82 per week, from Week One through Week 17.
This potentially means that, if Brown is traded at any point before Week One, Brown’s new team will assume all rights and responsibilities under the contract — including the responsibility to pay him an extra $147,058.82 per week from Week One through Week 17. As one league source with general knowledge of the procedures in this regard explained it to PFT, payment of the $2.5 million would become one of the negotiating points during the discussions culminating in a possible trade. The fact that the Steelers haven’t actually paid the money, however, makes it easier for the Steelers to take the position that the new team should pay the money.
This also makes Brown’s reasoning regarding the urgency to trade him by March 17 misplaced. “Why wouldn’t they not trade me?” Brown told ESPN. “They gotta pay me $2.5 million on March 17. If I invoice you March 17, $2.5 million that you gotta pay me, would you pay it or would you get somebody else to pay it? So it’s what — pretty much what’s good for their business.”
As it turns out, there’s a very good chance the Steelers will pay it only if Brown isn’t traded.
And if Brown isn’t traded, there’s a chance he’ll never receive any of the money. Under the labor deal, Brown could lose the entire amount if he commits enough so-called “forfeitable breaches” under the labor deal, which will occur among other things if he “willfully fails to report, practice or play.”
But if he is traded before March 17, there’s a good chance his next team will actually pay Brown the $2.5 million. Which explains why the Steelers don’t feel compelled to trade Brown before the $2.5 million becomes due. Given the payment structure, it’s no different from his $12.625 million salary.