NFL: What the Antonio Brown Trade Means for the Raiders

PC: Instagram/@Raiders

After months of speculation and Instagram-led drama, Antonio Brown has finally been traded. No, not to the Buffalo Bills. Apparently, that was fake news, as Brown put it.

Instead, the rebuilding Oakland Raiders decided to take a shot at the 30-year old. Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, will be under the tutelage of coach Jon Gruden. And he will have former Pro Bowler and MVP candidate Derek Carr throwing the ball to him.

All Part of the Plan

In return, the Pittsburgh Steelers get a 2019 third- and a fifth-round pick. Under the deal, Brown will be the highest paid receiver in the NFL, with over $30 million in guaranteed money–and potentially $50 earned in bonuses. Although the deal will not be official until Wednesday, the news has a lot of people talking about Brown’s impact on the Raiders.

On paper, this trade seems like an obvious win for the Raiders and their offense. The Raiders’ wide receiving core was abysmal last year. After Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys, the rest of the receiving group failed to step up. The leading receiver for the Raiders was actually tight-end Jared Cook, who led the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

The Raiders’ receiving core of Jalen Richards, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant posted terrible numbers in the wake of Cooper’s departure. Meanwhile, Brown had another stellar year despite the controversy surrounding his unhappiness with the Steelers. He had over 1,200 yards and led the league with 15 touchdowns.

After Gruden traded away Khalil Mack, questions around the future of the Raiders. They’re about to enter their final year in Oakland before the franchise moves to Las Vegas. With their best player traded, many thought that the Raiders would be a lame-duck team for the next two years.

However, the Mack deal did end up giving them a plethora of draft picks and cleared up plenty of cap space. With a lot of assets to work with, this is the time for Gruden to make his mark on the team. He did so by using some of the many picks they got from their trades to acquire the best receiver in football.

Here Comes Brown

But with Antonio Brown’s talent also comes the unnecessary drama he tends to create. Like most high-profile wide receivers, Brown can come off as a diva. His antics throughout last season rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Between his beef with Ben Roethlisberger and other teammates, and his Week 17 absence due to his frustrations, the tension between Brown and the Steelers came to a boiling point.

Eventually, it was clear that Brown just didn’t want to be on the Steelers. Owner Art Rooney II agreed that it was time to move on, and the Steelers finally got a deal done. With a new start with the Raiders, Brown has the chance to change his image as a selfish person and create a stronger legacy for himself.

The Raiders may be willing to put up with some of the antics since they need Antonio Brown badly. The last 1,000 yard receiver they had was Jerry Rice way back in 2004. Brown, meanwhile, has had six-straight 1,000-plus yard seasons, giving the Raiders a legitimate receiving threat for the next couple of years.

Some Gruden Magic

After taking plenty of criticism after the Mack and Cooper deals, Gruden is showing that he can still make good moves. Trading for the best statistical receiver for two lower-round picks is a pretty good deal, especially considering how bad their receivers were last year.

The biggest issue that the Raiders will have to solve is how Gruden and Brown will mesh together. With Gruden signed for the next nine years, he has far more authority over the franchise than Brown will. If Brown becomes frustrated by Gruden’s old-school offensive schemes, then the drama will becomes even greater than Brown’s in Pittsburgh. And knowing Brown’s history of conflict, it is definite possibility.

Even if Brown continues to be an outspoken receiver, I think that the Raiders offense will immediately benefit from his presence. The biggest benefactor of the trade will undoubtedly be Carr. He has been inconsistent over the past three years after showing top-tier quarterback potential in the 2015 season. Yet, 2018 wasn’t too discouraging as he had career-highs in completion percentage and yards, throwing for 4,049 yards at a 68.9 percent clip.

Brown can help revitalize Carr’s career and prove Gruden right, after he traded away a franchise player in Khalil Mack. If Brown can produce well into his 30s, and the Raiders capitalize on the first-round picks from the Mack trade, then their future can be very bright.

The Raiders could potentially be heading into Vegas with high hopes. They will also be bringing two of the biggest personalities in the NFL; and who knows how that mix will pan out in Sin City. For now though, the Raiders will be focused on using Brown and their draft picks to turn around their sinking ship from last year.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that bringing a receiver like Brown aboard with a coach like Gruden may very well end up backfiring for the Raiders. Regardless of what happens, the Raiders last season in Oakland will surely be worth watching.

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