How any team could have a deal in place less than ten minutes into the free agent negotiating period is anyone’s guess. Before any of us could get our bearings and settle in for the three-day window, the Raiders broke in the glass, agreeing to terms on a record-settling 4-year, $66 million deal with tackle Trent Brown.
Often times with big signings like this, we have time beforehand to ponder what we would think about such a deal. There wasn’t any time for that here and since the moment it happened I have been trying to align my thoughts.
I wasn’t a fan of the Kelechi Osemele trade. Cutting him would have been only slightly worse. But we had some inkling it could happen due to his $10.2 million cap hit and no dead money if cut or traded, so there was plenty of time to have that internal conversation, attempting to see both sides of the argument.
I still don’t think I have a firm grasp on my thoughts with regard to the deal to bring in Trent Brown and may not for some time.
Let’s start with the basics: The Raiders needed a tackle.
They drafted two last year. The targeted Kolton Miller in the first round, getting him at 15 overall, and notoriously passing on safety Derwin James, then traded up in the third round to draft small school player Brandon Parker. There wasn’t a lot to like about either selection — Both were raw prospects who were considered to be overdrafted.
With Donald Penn in-house — albeit coming off an injury — putting Miller at right tackle seemed like the smartest choice in the short term. But Gruden had other plans.
Miller was touted as the Raiders’ long term answer at left tackle, with the disclaimer that he was still a work in progress and needed to put on weight. This would suggest they knew he would have some issues, but they would ride them out for his long term well-being.
With Miller at left tackle, Penn started the season at right tackle. Having never played the position before, he looked terrible. Then injured himself in week four — likely because of the awkward switch to the right side this late in his career — and in came Parker.
There was no question Parker was not working at right tackle. That combined with all the insistence that they were ride-or-die Kolton Miller at left tackle suggested the team would be looking to upgrade the right tackle spot.
So, naturally, their first move is to sign a left tackle shift Kolton Miller to right tackle and Parker to backup.
As a matter of personnel, adding Brown solves each position, which is a good thing. Miller should be playing right tackle. Parker shouldn’t be a starter. But it sure does make that 2018 draft look rough. I mean, it look rough from the outset, and looked rougher as the season went on, but this really sends it home. They could have had an All Pro caliber safety, gotten a right tackle in the second round, and gone another direction entirely in the third. And hindsight was never required to see it.
Anyway, can’t go back. Gotta deal with the task at hand. They added a left tackle... on a record deal... with $36.75 million in guarantees.
That’s a lot of guarantees for a guy who comes with very few.
He played well last season protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. The former 7th round pick had never played at that level in his career before the Patriots made a late draft trade to acquire him from the 49ers. Do we know this wasn’t just the perfect situation for Brown? Do we know he will perform at anywhere close to the same level anywhere else? This is what SB Nation’s Pats Puplit said about Brown in their free agency profile:
One argument that speaks in the Patriots’ favor is Brown’s performance. Yes, he was very good and at times dominant but the question for other teams might be if this can be duplicated in a different environment: Brown — like every offensive lineman would — certainly benefitted from having a quarterback with one of the league’s quickest releases, and a position coach who is the best at what he does.
Both Tom Brady and Dante Scarnecchia may therefore have contributed a lot in making him the player he was in 2018 — and one that might be more valuable for the Patriots than for other teams.
In Oakland, Brown will have Derek Carr at QB and Tom Cable as offensive line coach. Carr tends to get rid of the ball quickly, though not if he hopes to allow Antonio Brown get open deep. I will not even compare him and Tom Brady in terms of pocket presence. Tom Cable is a notorious offensive line destroyer. He’s done a number on the Raiders one-time elite offensive line in a short time as well.
What if this time next year, the Raiders are having buyer’s remorse on that record deal for Brown? Tough. He would carry $36 million in dead money if cut after this season. He’s not going anywhere until at least after the 2020 season.
This deal on top of the Antonio Brown contract has the Raiders plunking down some serious coin. Over $33 million per year on average with a combined $67 million guaranteed. Both players are on offense, joining a team that had an historically bad defense last season that can’t get to the quarterback to save their lives. How is they can break the bank on offensive players, but supposedly couldn’t afford Khalil Mack?
There are many questions that arise here. Many of which are based on previous head scratching decisions. This one is mostly just risky. Which is why, for the most part, I am reserving my judgment.
I realize many of you would just like to be happy and cheer the Raiders making a big splash in free agency and getting a left tackle. That’s fine. Do your thing. A year from now, we may be able to say this move was everything you hoped it would be. There’s an equal chance we could be lamenting this move. The same way we’re now lamenting their attempts from last offseason to fix the tackle position, along with making the defense an afterthought.