Could other NFL stars force trades in future like Antonio Brown did this during this offseason?
Growing up throughout my childhood and adolescence, my father would religiously tell me and my siblings “You don’t get rewarded for bad behavior”. That life lesson has stuck with me into adulthood and one day I will ingrain that lesson into my own kids. It is a principle that universally translates and transcends into just about every forum outside of mercenary ‘wet work’.
Did All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown prove this offseason that it doesn’t apply to disgruntled star NFL players that are still in their prime, but are unhappy with their current contracts?
After a toxic 2018 season that spilled into the offseason in which Brown was publicly and openly critical of his teammates, coaches and front office executives and voiced his grievances through several social and mainstream media platform he was able to get his way.
He was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of mid-round picks and upon the finalization of the transaction, he was awarded with a contract that gave him the guaranteed money his wanted and made him the highest paid receiver in the league.
The Steelers will incur the largest cap hit of dead money in NFL history as a result of trading Brown with three years left on his deal at $21 million for the 2019 season to rid themselves of demonstrative force that was a cancer in their locker room last year as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
An anonymous league executive believes that Brown being able to force his way out of Pittsburgh and get his desired compensation by being a distraction on and off the field could set a dangerous precedent for other star players in the league going forward.
Typically, the only leverage a player in the NFL has against their organization is to withhold their services on the field by not reporting to offseason activities, training camp and even holding out regular season games. They do so with the intentions of forcing the team to pay up so that they can be compensated accordingly to what they believe they deserve while losing out on the reporting bonuses and game checks that they chose to forfeit as a result of their holdout.
Many believe that Brown’s former Steelers teammate in All-Pro running back LeVeon Bell lost his gamble when he bet on himself and sat out all of last season just to what some view as settling for his new deal with the New York Jets. However, Brown was able to get everything he wanted without missing a single game outside of the season finally when he was a healthy scratch because he skipped out on half a week of practice following a heated exchange with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the team’s practice facility.
Front office officials league-wide might be lying awake at night and losing a wink or two of sleep in fear that one or several of their star players could be inclined to follow Brown’s example and act out on and off the field to force a trade when they refuse to budge financially. On the other end of the spectrum, players across the league could see what happened with Brown and the Steelers and not want to cause such a rift in the fabric of their teams to preserve their own self-interests.
An easy solution could be that teams and prominent players agree to shorter contracts with more granted money like Kirk Cousins did last offseason when he inked a three-year deal worth $84 million fully guaranteed. That is easier said than done because many players seek long-term financial security for themselves and their families while franchises like to spread cap hits over a longer period of time with a way out of the contract down the road by front-loading contracts with guaranteed money.