The Raiders may have quarterback issues heading into 2019, but Jon Gruden seems fixated on adding Antonio Brown to his receiving options.
Jon Gruden made plenty of headlines with the Raiders in his first season, but no one should expect him to suddenly keep things quiet this offseason. Recent comments from Gruden indicate that Oakland may be prepared to make one of the biggest trades of the season.
The team has been consistently linked with interest in Antonio Brown ever since it became apparent the Steelers were prepared to let him go. Gruden’s recent assertion that Brown is the “hardest working player (he’s) ever seen” will only serve to engulf that rumor mill in flames.
In fairness to Gruden, he’s clearly trying to change his team’s culture. Last year’s moves to send veteran stars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper elsewhere left a serious leadership void in the Raiders locker room. Steelers officials would question whether or not Brown really has the personality you want to lead your team, but in terms of work rate, Brown’s dedication to the game is undeniable.
The Raiders also have more than enough draft capital to make a trade for Brown work. Recent reports claim the Steelers are only looking for a single first round pick in exchange for their controversial wideout. Gruden happens to have three first round picks in this draft that he can use to make a deal happen.
The argument against the Raiders spending one of those picks on Brown is pretty compelling. Adding a 30-year-old, highly paid veteran to a team that isn’t ready to win now is not a smart use of resources for Gruden and company. Even if Brown continues to play like a Pro Bowler for the next several years, it’s unlikely that the Raiders will be ready to contend during his prime. At best, he’s a bridge to help the team become competitive enough to accelerate the development of its young players.
At worst, Brown will become the same sort of distraction in Oakland that he was in Pittsburgh. The Raiders will either trot Derek Carr or a yet to be determined rookie to be their starter at quarterback next season. Neither option will give Brown the quality passes that Ben Roethlisberger did in years past. If Brown doesn’t see enough of the ball it’s very likely he’s going to become a problem in the locker room.
Gruden doesn’t want to think about the potential downside though. He’s fixated on the opportunity to add a shiny new toy to his roster. Don’t be at all surprised if the Raiders are the franchise willing to meet the Steelers’ asking price for Brown when all is said and done. At the very least, Brown playing under Gruden should make for great theater.