Antonio Brown’s $68 million contract extension with the Steelers was good news for DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Kenny Britt, Alshon Jeffery, and any other good to very good wide receiver about to hit the free agent market.
The wide receiver market is of high interest to the Redskins this year. They may make an effort to sign one or both of Jackson and Garçon, their free agent pass catchers. If both end up leaving, they might need to sign a starting-caliber receiver as a replacement. They have been working internally to try to value the players who will be available but the market ultimately will determine how much they will make.
Brown got a $19 million signing bonus and he will get $29 million in new money through 2018 and $55.5 million through 2020. The deal averages $17 million per year in new money. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships and Brown getting the money that he got will boost the salaries of Jackson, Garçon, and company.
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But none of them should be expecting to make anything close to the money that Brown is making. Brown became the highest-paid receiver in NFL history because over the last four years nobody else in the league has more receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions than Brown. If he’s not the best in the game, he’s close.
The other receivers are not on Brown’s level and the question is, how much below his pay level should they be because of it. For example, Britt has been in the league for eight seasons and he just eked over the thousand-yard mark for the first time last year, picking up 1,002. He had nine touchdowns in 2010, his second year in the league, and he hasn’t had more than five in a season since then. His name shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath with Brown’s, probably not even the same paragraph.
But, despite his experience, he is relatively young (he’ll be 29 in December) and at 6-3 he has the size that teams are looking for. Britt averaged 16 years per reception over the past three years. It would be easy for his camp to point out that he played in what Todd Gurley called “a middle school offense” with the likes of Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Case Keenum, and Jared Goff throwing him the ball.
Teams want to pay players based on what they think they will do in the future, not what they have done in the past. And it wouldn’t be surprising if a team thinks it can get $10 million worth of production out of Britt over the next few years.
A report yesterday said that the market for Stills could reach $12 million per year. That sounds like an agent-generated number. Stills has been in the league for four years and he gained 931 yards in his best season, and that was in New Orleans with Drew Brees throwing him the ball. That was his only season with over 50 receptions. Yes, he’s fast and he turns just 25 next month but $12 million seems to be a stretch.
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Garçon and Jackson both turn 31 this year and they are looking for one last, big bite of the apple. They probably will look for something in the $10 million range for three or four years. Given Jackson’s speed and his incredible ball-tracking ability and Garçon’s consistent productivity, it won’t be surprising to see both of them at least come close to eight-figure territory.
Will the Redskins be willing to pay that much, whether it’s for one of their own players or for an outside free agent? They may not be planning on it but the tide that Brown lifted up may force them to.