With week one in the books, mercurial future Hall of Fame wide receiver Antonio Brown is set to join the Patriots this week. During the mayhem of reports this past Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal would for one year, with a total of $15 million — $9 million of which would come in the form of a signing bonus.
As reported, a deal with those parameters would not have fit under the Patriots’ salary cap, as they currently have around $6.4 million in cap space. Naturally, this created many questions as to the deal’s structure, and which player, or players, on the 53-man roster would have to be cut to create the space needed to fit Brown’s deal comfortably under the cap.
According to The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, those details are now in.
The #Patriots 1-year contract with WR Antonio Brown include a $1M base, $9M signing bonus (paid $5M now, $4M later), $500K in 46-man roster bonuses, and NLTBE incentives of $1.5M for each of the following: 105 catches, 1,298 yards, 16 TDs. Total: $15M.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 9, 2019
The contract, which Rapoport also reported earlier on Monday, includes a 2020 option year for $20 million, which allows the Patriots to prorate Brown’s signing bonus over two seasons.
Brown’s 2019 cap hit will now be $5,968,750 (or $6 million, if we later find out that Brown was on the active roster for week one) — good for ninth-highest on the roster.
The Patriots are now going to be very tight on cap space. This deal puts the Patriots at around $400,000 in space without a corresponding roster move. With a trip to IR for tackle Marcus Cannon looking all but certain, New England may use that roster spot to squeeze Brown in. However, if they decide to call up a tackle from the practice squad, another player — Gunner Olszewski for example — could be on the chopping block.
All of Brown’s incentive thresholds were set one notch beyond what he produced in 15 games for the Steelers in 2018. If Brown achieves any or all of those marks, those incentive payouts will be reflected on New England’s 2020 salary cap.
Although the team will carry a $4.5 million cap charge next season whether Brown is on the roster or not, a $6M 2019 cap hit for one year of service from one of the most talented players in the NFL is a steal — particularly when you consider his 2019 cap hit for the Steelers: $21.12M.