Antonio Brown won’t be at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facility on Monday for the start of offseason workouts, and there’s a chance he won’t be around the team for a while.
The All-Pro wide receiver, who has caught 239 passes in the past two seasons combined, will be skipping the voluntary workout program and is mulling sitting out mandatory minicamp and perhaps even training camp in an attempt to secure a new contract, sources have told FOX Sports.
Brown and his camp have already spoken to team management about redoing his deal and told them his absence this spring will be related to the deal. The Steelers are bracing for a possible camp holdout from Brown, whose 129 catches in 2014 are the second-most in a single season behind Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002.
Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus declined to comment when asked about his client’s contract situation and whether he’ll hold out.
Brown, 26, signed a five-year contract extension in 2012 that was tacked on to the one year he had left on his rookie deal. That deal was worth almost $42 million in new money, with Brown collecting $19.5 million over the past three years. He’s due $6 million this season, $8.25 million in 2016 and $8.71 million in 2017 — a total of $22.96 million in non-guaranteed money.
Elite wide receivers have been paid an average of about $12 million per season of late (notwithstanding Calvin Johnson’s megadeal that averages over $16 million per year). Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant are set to earn $12.823 million this season on one-year deals as part of the franchise tag. Brown’s former teammate Mike Wallace got $12 million per year from the Miami Dolphins in a deal that franchise has come to regret.
Brown is surely looking at the salary numbers of other receivers with similar or worse production and believes his contract should match theirs. Usually, the big bucks are reserved for big-bodied, "X" receiver types or those who stretch the field. The 5-10, 186-pound Brown isn’t built like a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver, but he’ll have a strong argument from a statistical standpoint. His 1,698 receiving yards led the league last year and his 13 touchdowns were tied for second.
The irony of a potential holdout for Brown is the fact he benefited from the last time the Steelers had a wide receiver take such a stance. Wallace didn’t report to camp in 2012 because he was unhappy with the offers the Steelers had made. While he was holding out, the team turned around and gave Brown his extension for slightly less than they were trying to pay Wallace.
But Brown obviously wants to make a strong statement with his absence, even if he’s only missing voluntary activities for now. He can’t be fined until, and unless, he misses minicamp from June 16-18. He doesn’t have any workout bonuses in his contract, so he won’t lose any money by training away from the team this spring.