CBS Sport’s Jason La Canfora dropped a bombshell on the NFL on New Years Day when he reported that Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has requested a trade from the team. The news was initially met with speculation, as many thought that the potential cap charge to Pittsburgh would prevent a trade. But NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo crunched the numbers and argues that nothing cap-wise would stop the Steelers from trading Brown.
There is no doubt Antonio Brown is one of the best receivers in the NFL, a position that the Raiders desperately need to improve after trading Amari Cooper to the Cowboys. Brown is fresh off another Pro Bowl season after finishing the year with 1,297 receiving yards and a career high 15 touchdowns. If the Raiders were to acquire him via trade, he would immediately improve their passing game.
But there are more layers to this potential trade than just the player involved. To put it frankly, there are just too many holes on the Raiders roster, and Brown is not the difference between a 4-12 team, and one that contends in the playoffs. It might make sense if Oakland was close to contention, but they aren’t.
This same argument has been made to justify the trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears. Why would he pay Brown a contract worth nearly $20 million a year when he refused to pay Mack, who is three years younger, plays a more valuable position, and isn’t a constant pain in the ass? On top of that, Gruden would likely have to send one of his coveted first round picks — one he received in the Mack trade, the other in the Cooper trade — to Pittsburgh in the deal.
Paying a premium price for a 30-year-old receiver with a history of off-field concerns is the opposite of what a rebuilding franchise should do. Instead, Gruden could use one of his three first round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft to acquire a talented prospect who would be locked into a rookie contract for the next five years.
Gruden blew up the Raiders’ roster to create $78 million in cap space along with five first round picks in the next two years. Trading those picks and paying top dollar for Brown would simply reverse any progress Oakland has made towards a rebuild.
From first glance, the idea of pairing Brown with Jordy Nelson is awfully tempting. But if Gruden can look past the initial excitement, he will see that the move doesn’t make sense for his team.