The Raiders probably weren’t a legitimate playoff team with a motivated Antonio Brown on the roster. They certainly aren’t after releasing the star wideout.
Jon Gruden had grand plans of transforming the Raiders into a playoff team this season. A big part of those plans was signing Antonio Brown to a lucrative contract in free agency. The team’s decision to release the talented, but enigmatic wide receiver emphatically ends any dreams Oakland had of making the postseason in 2019.
The Raiders effectively spent a third and fifth-round pick to rent Brown for one offseason. That’s obviously horrible roster management by new GM Mike Mayock and his staff. It’s not a move that will torpedo the rebuild in Oakland, but it’s not going to make things any easier in coming drafts.
Losing Brown has a much more deleterious impact on the Raiders hopes of winning games this season. His departure leaves a massive hole in Gruden’s offense. Even with Brown in the fold there were questions about whether or not Oakland had enough offensive play makers to forge an above-average NFL offense. Removing him from the mix makes it painfully obvious that Gruden doesn’t have enough weapons.
Derek Carr has the ability to be an average NFL quarterback, but he’s not the sort of signal caller who can elevate the players around him. Tyrell Williams will be forced into the role of being the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. Nothing about his time with the Chargers suggests he’s ready to handle that sort of responsibility on a regular basis.
In a perfect world, Oakland could lean on its ground game while their passing game gets up and running. Unfortunately, Gruden and his staff are already trusting a rookie running back to shoulder the load. Josh Jacobs may develop into a quality starter in time, but expecting him to be the team’s No. 1 offensive option as a rookie is a recipe for disaster.
Savvy NFL franchises would realize their situation and shift their attention towards developing young players in the aftermath of such a seismic loss. Gruden’s ego won’t allow him to admit defeat even if it’s staring him in the face. The only saving grace for the Raiders is that most of the talent on their current roster happens to be young. They were always going to lean on rookies like Jacobs, Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram this season. The departure of Brown only heaps more responsibility onto the team’s draft class.
Releasing Brown represents a dark day for the Raiders franchise. At least Oakland fans will always have five episodes of Hard Knocks to commemorate his tenure with the franchise.