The Raiders have plenty of weapons at their disposal when it comes to handling Antonio Brown, and the Raiders can choose to be aggressive. But the player always will have rights, and the NFL Players Association along with agent Drew Rosenhaus will be charged with the responsibility of pursuing those rights.
Whether it’s voiding $29.125 million in guaranteed money or, as explained below, trying to block his entitlement to the balance of his 2019 salary ($14.625 million) as Termination Pay if he’s cut despite being on the Week One roster, Brown will have the right to fight anything the Raiders do.
As reported earlier this morning by Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Raiders have already sent Brown a letter explaining “that he will no longer be entitled to termination pay if they release him.”
Termination Pay is a benefit available to players with four or more years of NFL service. Basically, if a player is on the Week One roster and gets cut at any point after that, he’s entitled to collect the balance of his salary as Termination Pay. (Vested veterans routinely are cut before Week One specifically to avoid the Termination Pay benefit.)
The labor deal gives teams a mechanism for blocking Termination Pay for a player who was on the Week One roster. To do so, the team must “demonstrate that, after receipt of a written warning from his Club . . . the player failed to exhibit the level of good faith effort which can be reasonably expected from NFL players on that Club.” Thus, before terminating the player’s right to Termination Pay, the Raiders must send Brown a letter that goes something like this: “The Club hereby provides you with written notice that you are failing to exhibit the level of good faith effort which can be reasonably expected from players on this Club. If you do not demonstrate the good faith effort which can be reasonably expected from players on this Club, you will not be entitled to Termination Pay under Article 30 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement if you are terminated before the end of this season.”
It’s possible that the letter to which Schefter refers is the warning letter. Regardless, the Raiders surely are aware of the Termination Pay angle, and they will try to block Brown from getting it, if/when they cut him.
Still, the issue of Termination Pay and other guarantees will eventually be resolved by a third person who may, or may not, agree with the team’s arguments. Which means there’s a chance that, in the end, the Raiders will be without the player, without the money, and without the third- and fifth-round picks that were sent to Pittsburgh.