Antonio Brown and (not-so) Guaranteed Money

Ab frustrated

The Antonio Brown saga has taken yet another turn in recent days as his brief stint with the Patriots ended in an abrupt release. For the Patriots’ part, they had apparently become uncomfortable with the texts Brown sent to a second sexual assault accuser, prompting them to part ways with the wide receiver. On Brown’s end, he again took to social media to express his frustration, and in a series of tweets seem to criticize what he viewed to be a double standard of his treatment, versus that of team owner Robert Kraft, who faced heat earlier this year for soliciting the services of a prostitute. Brown’s tweet, now deleted, reportedly burned any potential bridge for reunion of the two parties, but more importantly may have further implications regarding Brown’s contract.

As you might remember just two weeks ago, the former Steeler griped his way out of Oakland, and in doing so, forfeited 30 million dollars of seemingly “guaranteed” money. However, there were two stipulations in the agreed upon contract that gave the Raiders certain avenues to relieve themselves of their commitment to Brown. The first was a clause relating to his $1 million signing bonus that required him to show up to at least 85% of  the team’s offseason programs. Of course, Brown failed to do so, in large part due to the helmet fiasco, giving the team the right to not only void this piece of the contract, but to also fine him over $50,000.

The second deals with the guarantee itself, and the language in the contract gave the Raiders significant discretion in deciding whether or not to fulfill it. The crucial portion states, “If at any time player does not honor any terms of the Contract (including any addenda thereto), then player shall be in default…and the Skill, Injury, and Cap guarantee shall be null and void…” It continues to state that the remaining can only be earned through a weekly, non-guaranteed basis, and this is exactly what the Raiders elected to do in light of Brown’s heated dispute with GM Mike Mayock, the same person responsible for granting him the contract in the first place.

What followed is now old news. Oakland released AB, he infamously celebrated on Instagram, and then “settled” on a 10 million dollar contract with the New England Patriots – $9 million of which was purportedly guaranteed through a signing bonus and another million as base salary. The agreement angered fans around the NFL, seemingly shifting the league’s balance lopsidedly to the defending champion’s favor. However, news of a second accuser, followed by threatening texts sent to her by Brown, led to the Patriots to release him on Friday – again putting his guaranteed money in question.

The star wideout was set to receive the first installment of the signing bonus today, with the remaining to be paid out in January. However, the Patriots reportedly have yet to pay that, and it does not seem like they will be doing so any time soon. Again, contract language could play a decisive role in determining what Brown is owed. It states, “any action that materially undermines the public’s respect for, or is materially critical of, the Club, the Player’s teammates or the Club’s ownership, coaches, management, operations of policies then, upon election of the Club, the guarantees set forth in this section… will be null and void.” This wording is vague, likely intentionally so, but seems to provide grounds which could protect New England from paying Brown.

Accordingly, upon his release, the free agent wide receiver filed a grievance against the team, which will undoubtedly stir up a legal battle that is made more fierce given Brown’s twitter jab at Robert Kraft. In fact, NFL insider, Adam Schefter, cited one source that said Kraft will “never write that check,” meaning that this case is like to go beyond just money-related motives. In any case, Brown’s money is again in jeopardy and estimates show that he is set to collect just under $160,000 in 2019, despite agreeing to two multi-million dollar contracts.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, Brown has lost around a total of $40 million in what was thought to be guaranteed money, and is now a free agent with a high unlikelihood of landing another deal. What’s more, is that although no team has the wide receiver under contract, he will nevertheless account for salary cap money for all three of his former teams. This is referred to as “dead money” and it exists to protect a player’s roster spot and for salary cap accounting purposes. The Steelers are stuck with the shortest end of the stick as Brown holds $21,120,000 of the $188.2 million that has been set as the salary cap for this season. Meanwhile, both the Raiders and Patriots will have dead money in their cap for the next two seasons as it relates to Brown. Oakland will carry a $2 million cap restriction over this year and next, while New England has a hold of roughly $5.5 million for this season and $4.5 million the following, although they will be attempting to recoup that money.

All in all, the Antonio Brown experiment has been a mess for those involved. It appears that he will be out of a job for a while as he claims he has “quit” the NFL. However, after losing his endorsement deal with Nike and another from the helmet manufacturer, Xenith, it would seem that Brown will need another stream of income. While he could presumably land a deal with the CFL or XFL, interestingly enough, Brown announced today that he is re-enrolling at Central Michigan and is taking online courses. The rest of the sports world can only speculate at what Brown will do next, but it is certain that his saga is still far from over.

Should the Red Sox Give Jon Lester an Extension

Jon Lester

Jon Lester has repeatedly said that he is willing to give the Red Sox a hometown discount for an extension in order to stay and pitch for Boston in 2015 and beyond, just how much? We don’t know. The Red Sox as of right now have yet to start contract talks with Lester, which is somewhat concerning given he will be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season, along with his desire to remain with the Red Sox. There are a couple reasons as to why the Red Sox are hesitant to sign their opening-day starter for the past 3 seasons to a long-term deal.

There has been an emergence of talented young arms that are on the verge of being ready to contribute to the major league club. In AAA Pawtucket alone, there are three pitchers who saw time last year that could help out again in 2014. Allen Webster, who came over from the Dodgers in the 2012 salary dump, made seven starts last year, but struggled tossing a 8.60 ERA. This number is somewhat inflated, due to two starts against Seattle and Minnesota in which he only managed to go a total of 4.0 innings allowing 15 runs, but without a doubt he has talent that will become more refined as he matures. Brandon Workman impressed many in his stint with the Red Sox. He is a starter and projects to remain there, but he was primarily used out of the bullpen last year and has won over some fans thanks to his playoff performance: 8.2 innings 0 earned runs. Finally, knuckleballer Steven Wright saw limited time last year, but doesn’t figure to see the major league club too much this year thanks to added depth. In addition to the three pitchers mentioned above, top prospects Matt Barnes (AAA) , Anthony Ranaudo (AAA), and Henry Owens (AA) haven’t even been on the major league club and they are big plans in the Red Sox future.

The other major reason the Red Sox might pause before opening a conversation with Lester is his 2012 season. Lester looked lost much of 2012 and couldn’t seem to get himself on track. He returned to old self this past season posting a 3.75 ERA, but it was still higher than his ’08-’11 seasons in which his ERA was never higher than 3.47. A thought coupled with this is that Lester could be getting old, but he is only 30 years old and to use a measuring stick as to what he might deserve, the best comparison to Lester would be Cole Hamels. Hamels was two years younger than Lester when he signed a six year $144 million dollar contract. They are very similar, both star lefties for high payroll teams and their seasons leading up to the contract year are very similar, with Hamels having a slight edge number-wise. Hamels earned his way into $24 million a year, which doesn’t sound like too much of a discount for the Phillies.

Lester on the other hand wants to stay in Boston to the point that he is willing to leave some money on the table. This doesn’t mean Lester would come cheap, especially considering his World Series performance, which would have given him a World Series MVP award if David Ortiz hadn’t hit an other-worldly .760 against St. Louis. Still, in an age where star lefties are starting put themselves in the $30 million a year range (yes, you Kershaw), if Lester hit the open market, it would not be a surprise if he were to receive an offer for 5 years around $125 million. Given his willingness to provide the Red Sox with a discount, a fair deal for both sides would be something in the 4 year $80-88 million range. This would retain the Red Sox most consistent pitcher for the foreseeable future and not to mention, provide the young studs with a veteran leader. So, what do you think should the Red Sox sign Lester to an extension or do they allow him to hit free agency.