The acquisition of Antonio Brown is just the move the Raiders needed to bolster their offense heading into the draft next month.
The Raiders above all else, lack talent on their roster. So when perennial All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown became available via trade, the Raiders were naturally interested. The acquisition of Brown for a 2019 third round pick and a 2019 fifth round pick is an absolute slam dunk for Jon Gruden and new Raiders GM Mike Mayock.
Brown is arguably the best wideout in football and has been for a number of years.
Since 2013, Antonio Brown has caught more than 100 balls each year, while averaging over 1,500 receiving yards per season. Despite 2018 being a supposedly ‘down’ season, Brown still managed a career-high 15 touchdowns for the Steelers. This type of talent simply does not come available often in the NFL. The last time a player of Brown’s caliber was traded, it was former Raiders wide receiver, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Randy Moss being shipped to the New England Patriots in 2007 for a measly fourth-round pick.
Moss was traded because he quit on the Raiders and new head coach Lane Kiffin did not want a malcontent destroying his desire to build a new culture in Oakland. After the 2006 season, Moss was seen by many as being past it, with his best days behind him. So it should have come as no surprise that Moss would tie Jerry Rice’s 22 receiving touchdowns record in the 2007 season and would be the focal point of one of the best offenses of all time.
Like Moss, Brown has his issues. He and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have not seen eye-to-eye for some time and their relationship has fractured. Additionally, Brown has consistently been in the media (and on social media) doing whatever he can to further distance himself from the Steelers organization. Brown’s “quit” was no further epitomized, however, when he went AWOL from the Steelers a few days prior to their final game of the 2018 season. The circumstances of Brown’s absence remain in a cloud of uncertainty and doubt.
The price of the trade was reasonable, though giving up a day two pick may be considered excessive for a team considered to be rebuilding, but consider the past third-round picks over the past few years: Tony Bergstrom, Sio Moore, Clive Walford and Shilique Calhoun were all busts as Raiders, while Eddie Vanderdoes and Brandon Parker both have question marks over their long-term future with the team. The argument against acquiring Brown also is related to the new terms of his contract (3 years, 50.125 million per ProFootballTalk). So not only do the Raiders lose the high draft pick, but they also lose valuable cap space.
Consider that the wide receiver market over the last 12 months is out of control. Sammy Watkins signed a three-year $48 million ($30 million guaranteed) contract with Kansas City, Odell Beckham Jr.’s contract with the Giants for five years and $90 million ($65 million guaranteed), and top free agent receiver Tyrell Williams expected to get north of $12 million per year next week when free agency opens, suddenly Brown’s new deal doesn’t seem so inflated after all. Consider that going as far back as 2015, the third highest cap hit for a receiver was Demaryius Thomas at 13.2 million, which was 9.21% of the team’s salary cap. Without having the full details of the contract breakdown, Brown’s contract projects to fit in at under 9% of the Raiders salary cap. This is a steal of a deal in every sense of the word. Thomas’ Broncos won the Super Bowl that season, so any notion that a team can’t be competitive whilst paying top dollar for a No. 1 wideout is false.
Beckham Jr. is rumored to be available be trade as well. He is only 26 years old and thus has more prime years left in his career, but he has missed a staggering 21 games over his five-year career. By contrast, Brown has only missed four games since 2013, and one of those was week 17 last year in which he was still healthy. Any question about Brown’s durability based on these numbers is nonsense.
The Raiders are currently in a rebuild mode. Many have seen acquiring Antonio Brown as a somewhat questionable decision. Though, given Brown’s style of play, it’s not inconceivable to think he can play for at least another five years at the top of his game. He has all the talent in the world, be it sublime route running, elite movement after the catch, extremely reliable hands, and speed that can take the top off any defense.
If all goes to plan, the Raiders will be contending for a playoff spot in 2020 – when the team moves to Las Vegas. Brown will still be in his prime then making his acquisition this year a no-brainer for Gruden and Mayock. Brown is the exact type of player who can help accelerate the rebuilding process for the Raiders.
Now all that’s needed is for Brown to change his peroxide mustache to the color of silver.