So far, the Raiders have been the team most active with big-splash free agent signings, hauling in several players on major deals. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock had a solid plan heading into free agency and have worked hard to fill several of their team needs with exciting young players. However, there are still several vital team needs that remain largely unaddressed, and it seems as though the Raiders’ first major acquisition this month is the reason why.
“The wild card in our planning was the understanding that Antonio Brown might be available,” Mayock said during Brown’s introductory press conference. “When, all of a sudden, we realized we might have an opportunity to compete for his services, it changed everything.”
If you have a plan that perhaps involved going after some premier pass rushers as well as bolstering the offensive line, but then the best wide receiver in football comes available, what do you do? Mayock and Gruden chose to try to alter their plan, but it wasn’t an easy feat and it looked as though it might not get done.
“We didn’t even get involved in the deal until Friday after the deal with Buffalo, because we weren’t willing to give up one of our first round picks, or our second round pick. Ultimately when that deal fell through, they called Jon Gruden, Jon called me, I got on the phone with Kevin Colbert, and Kevin and I established a three and a five,” said Mayock.
“Then the hard work started with Drew Rosenhaus, trying to put the financial piece together. Drew did a great job, but the deal fell through a couple times. I went to bed Friday night and I thought the deal was off the table. I got up Saturday and tried to re-energize it, and by the end of the day Drew and I were on the phone non-stop, both parties kinda came off their positions. The cool thing is, Gruden and Antonio hit it off like you couldn’t believe, their connection’s awesome.”
There was rampant speculation in Raider circles as well as around the league that the Raiders, were they to trade for Brown as many thought they might do, would have to give up one of their three first-rounders or their second-rounder. According to Mayock, that was never going to happen.
“The four picks in top 35 were off the table. We had an awful lot of phone calls and conversations with GMs across the league, looking to know what we’re going to do with that draft capital,” said Mayock.
One might expect a first-time GM to be a little naive, eager to make a deal, not really knowing what he’s doing yet. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Mayock, who is guarding his top four draft picks like a dragon with his hoard of gold. Even with the Brown deal, Mayock has managed to sign tackle Trent Brown, safety Lamarcus Joyner, receivers Tyrell Williams and JJ Nelson, and defensive end Josh Mauro, in addition to bringing back some tendered players. They still have money to spend, and they still have four draft picks in the first two rounds.
They have certainly missed out on some guys (read: pass rushers) they might have otherwise signed, and it’s possible they lose Jared Cook to another team. But that is the price to be paid when you make a deal for an elite player, as the Raiders did in bringing in Brown. More cuts could be made, as with AJ McCarron and Jordy Nelson. The Raiders are far from done in this free agency period, and they’ve shown an ability to adjust and maintain an advantageous position. That bodes well for the team going into the 2019 season and beyond.