Antonio Brown Trade Rumors: Steelers will move him in a trade despite massive $21M cap hit

The biggest obstacle in a potential Antonio Brown trade is the $21 million in dead cap space the Steelers will face if they move the All-Pro wide receiver in any kind of deal. It doesn't matter how they handle it: if Brown is dealt, the Steelers will use somewhere between 8 and 10 percent of their cap space on a star receiver playing for someone else.

According to a report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN, that doesn't matter and the Steelers are willing to move Brown anyway. Asked about the situation on Sunday morning, Mortensen said the Steelers "will move him in a trade."

"The reason why it's a high -- I call it a high probability, and we have until March 13 new league year to see this come to fruition, he's due a $2.5 million roster bonus five days after that date," Mortensen explained. "The Steelers, certainly because of what happened this week but what's been festering behind the scenes even a couple of years beyond that, they will move him in a trade."

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Asked about the cap hit situation, Mortensen explained the Steelers are willing to make a move and take the hit with Brown because of two things: the $14 million salary credit coming from Le'Veon Bell (assuming they don't use the transition tag on him) and the restructuring of Ben Roethlisberger's contract, which CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported will likely happen within the next few months.

Ben redoing his deal, by the way, is definitely a shot towards Brown. Roethlisberger is in a win-win -- he gets more cash up front with a restructure, but he also gets the benefit of looking like a team player who is helping the club free up money so it can move on from Brown. 

As for the festering of this over time, it's worth noting that Ben reportedly took shots at Brown during meetings and during practice. Roethlisberger apparently went off on Brown publicly when the receiver ran the wrong route during practice, which led to the boiling point for the All-Pro wideout.

Once things kicked into high gear, Brown went AWOL -- not for the first time this season -- before Week 17 and ended up not being active for the Steelers in a must-win game against the Bengals. Pittsburgh would win anyway, but miss out on the playoffs because of the Ravens beating the Browns

Mike Tomlin said he heard from Brown first when the receiver's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, reached out on that Sunday morning. Roethlisberger claimed Brown didn't return any texts or calls leading up to the game.

"I called and texted and reached out numerous times and tried to find out what going on," Roethlisberger said, "but I really couldn't get any answers."

It's possible all the drama may have cost Brown a spot on the All-Pro team, with at least one voter swapping his selection at receiver because of Brown's decision to bail on his team in Week 17. 

In the wake of the drama, former teammates have spoken out about Brown's behavior with the Steelers, claiming this was something that was obviously coming at some point. 

So can an Antonio Brown trade actually happen? Yes, it can. Committing $21 million to a player not on the roster is a hefty price, but the Steelers are financially capable of making a deal go through. If they can get multiple draft picks for Brown, the Steelers might think it's worth the massive financial hit in 2019 in order to get Brown out of the locker room and off the books moving forward. 

This is going to be THE storyline for the next few months. If you're tired of the Brown drama now, just wait until early March. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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