Antonio Brown could be league's highest-paid receiver


The Steelers had better enjoy their roster and salary cap as presently constructed -- because things are about to get expensive.

According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, receiver Antonio Brown could get a deal that "eclipses the $15 million that (Bengals wide receiver) A.J. Green gets on an annual basis." It would make Brown the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver.

As Rapoport explained, the salary reconstruction that Brown received this offseason, which bumped him from $6.25 million to $10.25 million, was essentially a Band-Aid. It also came with the promise that we'll take care of you once the 2017 offseason rolls around.

While we have seen some Band-Aid contracts famously break down -- Jets fans will remember the Darrelle Revis Band-Aid deal which he signed to end a holdout in 2010 -- the situation in Pittsburgh seems entirely different. Brown is technically signed through the 2017 season but should not, under any circumstances, step on the field next season without a new deal.

Over the last four regular seasons, he has caught 481 of 695 targets (69 percent) for 6,315 yards and 43 touchdowns. He averages 13.1 yards per reception despite being double teamed or bracketed on nearly every play. He averaged just over 100 receiving yards per game between 2013 and 2016.

The question for Pittsburgh now becomes how? Outside of Brown, they must also come to financial terms with soon-to-be free agent Le'Veon Bell, who could very well price himself out of the traditional market for running backs given his insane receiving numbers for the position. In his last 34 games, Bell has 182 catches for 1606 yards and five touchdowns. Adrian Peterson led all running backs in 2016 with a $12 million cap hit, a $7.75 million base salary and per-year average ($14 million).

It would not be surprising in the least to see Bell breeze through those figures.

Pittsburgh's team of salary-cap handlers will certainly get their work in this offseason. They cannot afford to break up one of the league's best offensive triple threats.