On Sunday, former Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders for what is being reported as a third (66th) and fifth-round (141st) pick in the 2019 NFL Draft — which is roughly equivalent to a late second (61st). Let’s talk about why the Colts didn’t involve themselves in this trade and what it means for the Raiders.
This was a great move for the Raiders. When he was in the booth, Mike Mayock was one of my favorite analysts. He always came across as a calm and collected individual with an open mind who progressed as the game evolved.
I am not a huge fan of Jon Gruden. He pushes players to give their very best, both during practice and on game day; however, as a team builder, he tends to lean more towards veterans with proven experience that have a few years left in the tank. Let’s make this clear: He won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s guys and then his decision making promptly destroyed what Tampa had left.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the Raiders situation. They have a QB that signed, at the time, the largest contract in NFL history, and who was playing at a MVP level until Trent Cole broke his leg. They traded 2 of their 3 best players for multiple first round picks, acquired a talented WR for what should be considered a piece of gum and some pennies, but the team has to carry around $21 million in dead cap.
Their defense is atrocious, finishing 30th in defensive ranking with a defensive DVOA of 12.3%, a secondary ranked 32nd and a rush defense that is ranked 22nd. They were dead last in the league with 13 sacks. Ironically, former Raider Khalil Mack had 12.5 by himself in Chicago.
Further, the wide receiver group is bad. Before the Antonio Brown trade, the Raiders’ three best receivers going into next season were Jordy Nelson, Marcell Ateman and Derek Carrier — all of whom combined for 961 yards last year.
The O-line was slightly better, though it faced major injuries to key contributors such as Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson, and Jon Feliciano. The starting offensive line was likely to be (from left to right) Kolton Miller, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Donald Penn. Former Colt Denzelle Good started 3 games near the end of the season, playing so well that he earned a new contract. He could find himself in a 6th man role at RG or RT. (Good could find himself starting as Osemele was traded)
If I were the Raiders, my goals for this offseason would be:
- Select Quinnen Williams, Marquise Brown and Byron Murphy/Deandre Baker in the first round
- Take Jaylon Ferguson in the second
- Select Jane Steinberg, TE Texas A&M on Day 3
- Take Darell Henderson/Bryce Love late
- Sign either Ronald Darby and/or Jason Verrett in Free Agency
- Sign Tre Boston in Free Agency
- Re-sign Jared Cook
This would fill most of their needs, at least temporarily, and they would still have another two first-round picks in next years draft. In terms of cap space, AB got a 3-year $54 million dollar contract, and while that seems like a lot, consider that (adjusted for inflation) Sammy Watkins got a 3-year $51 million deal last year.
That leaves the Raiders with around $40 million to function with. Their tight end, Cook, played at a Pro-Bowl level last year, so re-signing him should be a no-brainer if the price tag doesn’t get too rich. Darby and Verrett are both ultra-talented CBs. I think Verrett will be cheap due to the fact that his injury history is quite lengthy and Darby, maybe the second best CB available in the market, also has injury concerns to go along with his on-field production as he is coming off a ACL tear.
If the Raiders are lucky, the safety contract market could allow them to bring in a Tre Boston/Kenny Vaccaro on a reasonable deal to solidify their back end to a level it hasn’t been since Charles Woodson was wearing the Black and Silver.
Last season, the Raiders got a steal in the 5th round with a top-10 talent in Maurice Hurst who slipped because of cardiac concerns. This year, they can pair him with another great prospect in Quinnen Williams, forming the best young interior DL group in the league. The Raiders can use their high second-round pick to select Jaylon “Sack Daddy” Ferguson, the Division 1 FBS all time sack-leader who has proven he can get after the QB, and hopefully, increase that Raider sack total.
Finally, after getting a member of the Brown family already, Mayock falls in love with Marquise Brown’s speed and takes him 24th overall. Under the guidance of his cousin, Brown has the potential to refine his route running and become an all around threat in Gruden’s offense.
All of this is tremendously important because before they move to Vegas, the Raiders need to know one thing: “Does Carr has still have it?”. They need defensive help, so this year I don’t see them taking a QB, but if Carr can’t produce with all the shiny new toys Gruden has given him, it’s time to move on and trade him (or cut him, the Raiders have an out on Carr’s contract in 2019, but it would cost $27.4 million in dead cap). This would allow the Raiders to go into Vegas with 2 first-round picks.
And while the Raiders may have hired two booth analysts for their most important staff jobs, it does seem like the arrow is trending upward for the organization. That is if (and only if) Gruden is willing to let go of the reins a little bit and allow for Mayock to have some say in the decision-making process.
In my opinion, I think Ballard should have absolutely doubled down and gone for Antonio Brown. In February, I published an article and the consensus seemed to be that going for AB made sense, as long as it was the right price. No one can argue that a third and a fifth for the best WR in the league should be considered a robbery. Some may bring up that his contract was restructured, but it was nothing crazy or that the Colts couldn’t afford. Further, Brown’s main problems seemed to be related to Big Ben and the lack of pay/respect given to him. Luck would never throw Brown under the bus like Ben did, and they could have paid him what he wanted, so there is really no excuse.
Would you have accepted this deal if it landed Brown in Indianapolis?
Post-Write note: Osemele and a sixth-round pick were traded to the Jets for a fifth-rounder. The Raiders trade a Pro-Bowl LG to get rid of the $10.2 million he is owed and the Jets get a 30-year old guard to protect their young QB and open lanes for... Le’Veon Bell? After all the trades go through, the Raiders will have around $50 million to play with, more than enough to address other team needs.