Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown let be known that he has no intentions of holding out next year as a restricted free agent according to a blog post by Ed Bouchette today. Bouchette quoted Brown as saying, “Whatever the case may be, I plan on being here.”
Browns, like fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and figures to be in the same situation as Mike Wallace was this off-season. Should Brown follow up his break out season of 2011 with another similar type one in 2012, the Steelers will be forced to use a first round tender on him, just as they did with Wallace.
While it looks unlikely right now, the Steelers could decide to try to lock up Brown long term prior to the start of the 2012 season. If that were to happen, it would figure to go down after the final cut-downs take place, as there could be some wiggle room should players like Jonathan Scott and Will Allen not make the final 53 man roster. Those two players alone would clear nearly $3.5 million in 2012 salary cap space.
Before anything happens though with Brown, the Steelers main focus will continue to be getting a long term deal done with Wallace, who has yet to sign his one-year tender offer of $2.742 million. If the Steelers think Brown fits into their long-term plans, and there is no reason to think that he doesn\’t, it would be smart, and cheaper, to try to lock him up now if they have the cap room to do so.
Sanders is a different story as he will have to show in 2012 that he can stay on the field and that the problems with his feet and knees are in the past. Sanders told the media earlier this week that he is 100% and that the injuries are behind him now. He had a great performance against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wildcard game last year and figures to play a much larger role in the offense in 2012. He most definitely will not be extended prior to the start of the season and will be prime candidate for an original round or first round restricted tender next off-season depending on the type of year that he has.
Brown certainly has said and done all of the right things ever since he was drafted by the Steelers and his Thursday comments that Bouchette reported are very encouraging in light of what is currently going on with Wallace. A lot can happen between now and next off-season, but I take Brown at his word.