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Raiders may have traded for Trent Brown last offseason had they known he was available, ‘betting on his upside’ now

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Jon Gruden missed the boat on trading for Trent Brown last offseason, so he spent a boat load of money to get him this year.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Neither Raiders head coach Jon Gruden nor general manager Mike Mayock are saying for certain which side of the offensive newly signed tackle Trent Brown will be playing. Though if you listen, it sure sounds a lot like they have him pegged at right tackle. That’s where he was playing with the 49ers before they traded him to the Patriots and he sure would have been a welcome addition last season.

“I loved Trent Brown when he was a 49er, personally,” Gruden said at the league meeting this week. “I did not know he was on the trade market, Trent didn’t even know he was on the trade market, and I think he went to New England basically for the equivalent of a 4th round pick. No one knew he was on the market except the Patriots and Shanahan probably. But I liked him as a right tackle. I loved him as an offensive lineman, obviously in New England, playing left tackle. What a job he did. But there’s not many 26-year-old guys that have proven they can play at right tackle and left tackle in this league. So, it’s great to have him.”

No single player this offseason did the Raiders go after harder than Trent Brown. Even Antonio Brown was soft played. Trent was another story altogether. Gruden didn’t like seeing his franchise quarterback get sacked 51 times last season, so, just as he did going into last year’s draft, he made tackle his top priority.

“I think we were kind of buttoned up and knew that when the clock struck nine, we were going to be on the phone with Drew [Rosenhaus] and we were going to try to blow them out of the water,” Mayock said of their pursuit of Trent Brown. “We knew there would be competition. We knew what we thought his market was going to be. And we were going to go in with an offer we thought was slightly above his market. And we did. And to Drew’s credit, he recognized the market, we tweaked a few things and a deal was done.”

Mayock and Gruden knew they had the need and along with the advice they received from their salary cap specialist Tom Delaney, they decided they were going to make Brown the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

“We had to make a decision,” Mayock added. “How aggressive did we want to be and obviously we went in hard early, knowing that he was going to have a big market, but also knowing that he’s 25 years old, he’s been really well coached by Dante Scaranecchia (sp?) in New England and we need to continue that with Tom Cable in Oakland. But we’re betting on his upside. We believe in him.”

The big tackle’s contract certainly says what words can’t about the team’s belief in him. Brown received a 4-year, $66 million deal with over $36 million in guarantees.

Much of those guarantees were pushed to the 2020 season when the team is slated to move to Las Vegas and thus his salary will come without the high income tax in California.

What that means is they are invested in Brown for at least two years, with his salary jumping from $15.25 this season to $21.25 next season.

That is steep for either tackle position, but especially for a right tackle. Consider this possibility though; Gruden drafted Kolton Miller at pick 15 last year and immediately put him at left tackle as the future there. That would suggest they would give him at least a couple seasons to find his way at that spot.

Obviously, worst case scenario is Brown doesn’t perform at the level he did in the Patriots’ system and Miller doesn’t show improvement and the Raiders have a failed first round pick on one side and a dud getting paid more than the QB on the other side.

Another scenario is also not so bad with Brown in the mix.

Gruden says he likes Brown at either tackle spot. He even said “A lot of teams flip their tackles”. So, let’s say Brown plays right tackle this season, leaving Miller at left tackle. They use this season to evaluate Miller’s potential as the future at left tackle. By next offseason, if Miller doesn’t show he’s the guy, they switch them. Put Brown at left tackle and try Miller at right tackle. And of course, they would be trying to develop Brandon Parker as the reserve swing guy.

They’re still taking a risk with the record money paid to Brown, who is relatively unproven. Though the potential reward is far greater than had they signed a cheaper free agent right tackle because in that instance, Miller would have to prove he is the answer at left tackle. With Brown in-house, Miller could falter at left tackle and the team would still be ok.

Again, this is completely contingent upon Brown playing to the level of the “upside” the Raiders think he has. Gruden sees Brown as offering “credibility” at tackle they didn’t have with the two rookies the Raiders had starting last season.