After Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns were unable to defeat Lamar Jackson‘s Baltimore Ravens, and Andrew Luck‘s Indianapolis Colts beat the Tennessee Titans, the Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention, missing the post-season for the first time since 2013. The next day, rumors came out that Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh’s star wide receiver, was furious with the team, and wanted a trade. This caused the ears of 31 other fanbases to park up, because everyone wants a wide receiver like Antonio brown. The Raiders traded Amari Cooper because they didn’t believe he was a true number one, could it be a match made in heaven?
Are the Oakland Raiders and Antonio Brown a Match?
Here’s Why They Are
First thing’s first, here’s why people think it is a match. It’s no secret that regardless of who ends up starting at quarterback for the Raiders next year (Spoilers: It’s still Derek Carr), he’ll need some weapons. Right now, his receiving corps is headlined by Jordy Nelson (will be 34 when the season starts), Seth Roberts, and Marcell Ateman. That’s not enough, the Raiders need a stud at receiver, and few receivers, if any, are better than Antonio Brown.
It’s not like the Raiders are lacking in trade capital either. They have three first round picks this year, and their projected cap (roughly eighty million dollars) is easily big enough to handle Brown’s contract ($22,165,000). The Raiders could just draft a wide receiver, but everyone knows the draft is a crapshoot, why gamble when you can trade for the sure thing?
Not to mention, imagine the irony if the Raiders traded Dallas’ first round pick to Pittsburgh. It would be as if the Raiders traded Amari Cooper for Antonio Brown, which is a far less controversial trade for the silver and black.
Too Old? Maybe Not
Antonio Brown’s age is an issue. He’ll be 31 when next season starts, and as someone who hasn’t ever been exceptionally fast, you have to wonder if his window is beginning to close. The reason this might not bother the Raiders is this, Jon Gruden loves veteran receivers. In his first stint with the Raiders, Jon Gruden’s offense was built around free agent acquisition Jerry Rice and Raider legend, Tim Brown, both of whom were well into their 30’s at the time. Even last year, his biggest signing was Nelson, who was 33 at the time.
So far, so good, right? It seems like a match made in heaven, Mike Mayock and Gruden should call up the Steelers right now,. After all, the Raiders and Steelers swapped receivers last off-season, with the Raiders ending up with Martavis Bryant and Pittsburgh getting Ryan Switzer through separate trades. Meant to be, right? Maybe not.
Here’s Why They’re Not
Without getting into too much detail, nobody outside of Pittsburgh really knows what happened in that locker room. Ryan Clark went on live television and said he predicted Brown would be a monster after he got paid (link here), while it’s no secret that Ben Roethlisberger has been very critical of his teammates in public and too the media (link here).
Is Brown a primadonna who is more concerned with stats than wins? Is Ben Roethlisberger difficult to play with, alienating his team’s best players? Who knows? What we do know is that the Raiders just traded their best player, it seems unlikely that they’d trade for someone who doesn’t want to play for his team anymore. Gruden will take the older players, the troubled players, and the worst quarterback in NFL history, but he won’t take people who quit on their team. Storming out of a game at halftime is not what a Gruden Grinder does. That’s not all.
Too Old? Maybe
While Antonio Brown might still have a couple of excellent years left in him, especially in a friendly west-coast type offense, it’s irrelevant. Unfortunately for Raider Nation, even if Antonio Brown doesn’t fall off at all for two or three years, who is to say the Raiders are two or three years away from being competitive? The best fanbase in football doesn’t want to hear this, but the team has a ton of holes.
They need at least one more offensive lineman, a reliable tailback, at least one more wide receiver, as many pass rushers as possible, linebacker help, a safety to pair with Karl Joseph, and corner to play opposite Gareon Conley. Not to mention, there are those who speculate that Gruden might move on from Derek Carr this year. This team has many, many holes to fill before they become a threat in the AFC.
Antonio Brown isn’t going to create a pass rush for this team, nor is he going to protect Derek Carr. He’s not going to give the Raiders a great run game, and while the Raiders have the money to afford him, there are other positions that simply need it more.
This Receiver Class
Trading away a valuable draft pick for a player that won’t singlehandedly reverse the fortunes of the franchise is stupid, especially when he’s making the kind of money the Raiders said they couldn’t afford to give Mack. The Raiders could draft a receiver this year with that pick instead (personally, I like N’keal Harry), and he’d make just as much of an impact for significantly less money.
And this is a solid receiver class. A.J. Brown, Parris Campbell, Deebo Samuel, and Marquise Brown (Antonio’s cousin, ironically) all have first round grades pre-combine, and there’s some serious depth in this class. I mentioned Harry from Arizona State because he’s a big, physical, reliable receiver that’s a decent route-runner, which Gruden likes. He’s like a more athletically gifted Marcell Ateman.
There are several talented receivers in this draft class, even if free agency isn’t going to be kind to the position this year. If you’re going to send picks to Pittsburgh for a receiver, you seriously should consider staying in, trusting Mike Mayock, and taking the best receiver available instead.
It a Match?
I don’t think so. It’s a bit of a catch 22, because if the Raiders were good enough to benefit from having Antonio Brown right now, they probably wouldn’t have the picks or money to afford him. The reality is that he’s just too old, too expensive, and potentially, too risky for the locker room.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone in this draft will be as good as Brown, but they will be in their early 20’s and play for a few years under a rookie contract, proving themselves while the team attempts to improve. Mark Davis and Jon Gruden swore up and down they couldn’t afford to have two players making over $20,000,000 on the roster at once, and it’s hard to imagine they’d make an exception for a 30 year old wide receiver and not a 27 year old pass rusher.
For what it’s worth, if the Steelers do decide to trade Brown, I think the Green Bay Packers are the best spot. The Packers need a weapon to keep Aaron Rodgers happy, and they do have multiple first round picks. They cleared up some cap space last August, supposedly to make room for a hypothetical Khalil Mack trade, and whoever comes in to replace Mike McCarthy would love to have as much help as he can get.