By: Justin Holden
Let’s start this article off with the breaking news, shall we? Antonio Brown has been traded to the Oakland Raiders. The Pittsburgh Steelers received 2019 3rd round and 5th round draft picks in return. The Oakland Raiders also re-structured Antonio Brown’s contract so that he will be earning $50.125 million over the next 3 years. $30.125 million of that contract is guaranteed money. This is obviously a huge win for Antonio Brown from a financial perspective, as remaining with the Pittsburgh Steelers would have netted him $39 million over the next 3 years. It is also an obvious boost to the Oakland Raiders’ wide receiver corps, especially given the departure of Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys last year. But let’s dig a bit deeper into the aftermath of this transaction, for both teams involved.
Aftermath of the Antonio Brown trade – Pittsburgh:
Even though Antonio Brown is a once in a generation talent at the wide receiver position and still should have at least a few years of quality production left in the tank, it is difficult to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost this trade given the situation they were in. The Steelers will still have Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington on the roster, two talented young WR’s that should be able to fill the void over time. We must also consider that Antonio Brown was an unsettled player that clearly didn’t want to stay in Pittsburgh for the remainder of his contract. By agreeing to a trade, the Pittsburgh Steelers potentially avoided another ugly holdout situation, like the one they endured with Le’Veon Bell during the 2018-2019 NFL season. Having said all that, a 3rd round pick and a 5th round pick is not much in terms of compensation for an elite player, albeit an aging one. I expect a challenging season upcoming for the Steelers, not just because of the departure of Brown and Bell, but also because of the age of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and what appears to be a resurgence of the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North.
Aftermath of the Antonio Brown trade – Oakland:
I mentioned earlier that Antonio Brown would provide an immediate boost to the Oakland Raiders wide receiver corps, which has essentially been a wasteland since Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper departed from the team. Acquiring a player of Brown’s caliber for 3rd and 5th round draft picks is a steal. However, there are some things about this trade that I don’t like for Oakland. First of all, they increased Brown’s salary from $13 million per year average to $16.66 million per year average, with a sizable chunk of the contract being guaranteed money. While the Raiders certainly have money to blow, we still have to consider this into the evaluation of this transaction. Did it make sense for Antonio Brown to be given a raise at this point of his career? I would argue that he’s only going to get worse with age at this point. A receiver playing into his thirties will lose speed and agility, which is why you see a lot of older receivers eventually relegated to WR2 or slot roles before they are bounced out of the league. Brown is definitely a WR1 for now, but I wonder what will happen to his athleticism once he’s in year three of the contract.
The other thing I don’t like about this deal for the Raiders is that the team still doesn’t project to be a super bowl contender. It would have made much more sense for Antonio Brown to go to a team where he was the missing piece of the puzzle; that last acquisition that could make a team a legit contender. We all know the Raiders won’t be that even if they draft perfectly this offseason. They’ve just given up too many impact players for draft picks and you need time for those draft picks to develop into solid NFL starters. The Raiders made it perfectly clear through their actions last season that the franchise was in rebuilding mode. So while “Carr to Brown” might end up being a great fantasy football headline over the next few years, I still can’t see the Oakland Raiders being anything more than an 8-8 team for the 2019-2020 NFL season. Maybe someone should remind Jon Gruden and the Raiders GM that they’re managing a real life football franchise, not a fantasy roster.
Safety Eric Weddle released by Baltimore Ravens; signed by LA Rams:
Initially, I had mixed feelings about the Los Angeles Rams signing Eric Weddle at the salary they did ($6.25 million average over two years) and trusting him in a starting role for the 2019-2020 NFL season. I then realized that safety Lamarcus Joyner, who played for the LA Rams during the 2018-2019 NFL season, is set to hit free agency. When you consider that fact, this move makes sense for the LA Rams. Joyner is most likely going to command a higher salary during the free agency process as multiple teams bid for him. Rather than take the gamble of overpaying for a player in free agency, the Rams have opted to sign a veteran safety who has made the pro bowl in each of his last three seasons. The fact that Weddle is originally from the west coast and was rated as the 10th best safety by Pro Football Focus helps ease concerns as well. But, all of that doesn’t change the fact that Weddle is an aging veteran who showed a tendency to get burned by speedy receivers last year when he played for the Baltimore Ravens. Clearly if the Baltimore Ravens saw him as a true pro bowl caliber player, they wouldn’t have been so quick to release him. LA Rams fans will be hoping for the best with this key signing. The signing of Eric Weddle could be looked back on as a great value pick, or as a flop. Only time will tell.