In the immediate aftermath of the Raiders acquisition of future Hall of Fame receiver Antonio Brown, I have but one immediate bit of advice for Jon Gruden: Might as well go and get Le’Veon Bell, too.

Turn Oakland – and then, Vegas – into Pittsburgh West. If you are willing to give massive guarantees to a 31-year-old receiver who just manipulated his way out of one of the most storied franchises in the NFL (and a hat tip to him for doing so), then why stop there? Go ahead and land the guy who walked away from a fully guaranteed $20.5M between last July and this March just to get out of Pittsburgh, and who sat out all of 2018 rather than play for the Steelers on the franchise tag.

At this point, the Brown trade doesn’t really fit in with what looked like a total tear-down-to-the-studs plan by midseason with the trades of Amari Cooper after Khalil Mack – and the widespread shopping of most veterans on the roster as well – so screw it. If you have to keep up with the Chiefs and Chargers scoring points in the AFC West, and your defense is so bad that it will take multiple offseasons to address, anyway. It’s no secret that Gruden is an offense guy through and through, so, well, go throw some silly money at Bell, too.

Hell, it’s not Gruden’s money anyway, and with a 10-year contract he can afford to change direction and rebuild however he likes, whenever he likes. You want to start selling sponsorships and PSL’s on a stadium in Las Vegas that doesn’t exist yet, at least put an exciting product on the field. Grab Bell – I continue to hear that market is going to be softer than many would have anticipated – and take one of the many dynamic tight ends available in this draft, and, since you have been looking at slot receivers in free agency, take a shot on someone like John Brown (we know the Raiders love speed) and try to win 55-50 every Sunday (oh and Monday and Sunday night, too, because your team just got a heck of a lot more interesting).

Go out and do what Al Davis would have done!

Do it for that hardcore fanbase in the Bay Area that has been showing up despite the franchise being in perpetual purgatory!

Do it for Vegas, baby!

Do it for the ghosts of the AFL!

Do it for CBS (I mean, we do have the AFC package and all)! 

Seriously, at this point, why not? Sure, none of them may be all that serviceable come 2021, when the Raiders are supposed to move into their new football Taj Mahal in the desert, but with all of the draft capital that they have accumulated in the next two drafts they can still address other needs. Keep the veterans on that offensive line around, add a tackle and see what Derek Carr does with that cast around him.

Don’t like what you see from him in 2019? Well, that’s a very-tradeable contract he has and I hear this Tua kid and this Herbert kid might go 1-2 in the 2020 draft and they can both throw the ball around the yard, and Gruden will still be in position to likely land one via trade up or otherwise. After using all these top picks in 2019 and 2020, you don’t think he wouldn’t be willing to send a bunch of high picks in 2021 elsewhere to go up and get a QB he covets if need be? And he would recoup a decent haul for Carr as well.

Are they going to compete for the AFC title in 2019 if they do all of this? Not with that defense. But perhaps by 2020 they are more of a factor, and in the meantime the defense knows a turnover here or there and a few forced punts and it’s a tight game in the fourth quarter and anything can happen.

A year after being widely panned for shipping a third-round pick for Martavis Bryant and throwing away money on Jordy Nelson and others, and then enduring the Mack saga and watching Cooper shine in Dallas, imagine Gruden sitting at a press conference with Bell and Brown and saying: “I just got these two guys, right here, AND a first-round pick, for Amari Cooper and a third-round pick. Any questions for Chuckie, now?” Mic drop.

Will he ever get a ring with these two cats? Probably not. But he would be adding roughly 3,500 scrimmage yards per season and about 200 receptions and, probably, 20-ish touchdowns of production. And guess what, every season 31 teams don’t get a ring, either, but this will damn sure be more fun than that slow death march that was the 2018 Oakland Raiders season.

As to the trade itself, it’s clear the big winner here is Brown. He got out of Pittsburgh on his terms despite having three years left on his deal. He quashed a trade someplace he didn’t want to go, assumed total and full authority of a situation that, contractually, he should have been a distant bystander to, and in the process should earn a place at the negotiating table when the NFLPA sits down with the NFL to hash out the next CBA. This dude just took the Rooneys, of all owners, to school, and literally talked his way to getting pretty much exactly what he wanted with a massive new contract and guarantees.

Okay, he didn’t get everything he wanted, because he didn’t exactly go to a winning team, but let’s be real. That was down the pecking order of wants/needs. He is free from the perpetual drama between him and Ben Roethlisberger, he ends up with a team almost as iconic as the one he left, and he gets to finish his career in all likelihood on the first team to ever play in Vegas.

He manipulated social media – and the media itself – expertly. Master class. Well done.

As for the other winners in this episode. Well, Big Ben still wins, because the Steelers are going to fill his pockets with money, and with AB and Bell off the books there are no complaints to be made about him taking up too much of the triplets’ money. He’s the only one left! And Cooper is a huge winner here, because the Raiders just basically re-established a baseline for his contract talks with the Cowboys, and given how much younger Cooper is, well, jackpot. And, for that matter, every truly elite NFL player can take a little victory lap here as well, because while you might have to get messy to do it, no one can tell you you’re stuck once that guaranteed money is paid out and you have three or more years still left on your deal.

Just tell ’em, “AB got out and got paid. And so can I.” (But, again, make sure you are a top-five player at your position, with a Hall of Fame-ish resume, or, well, it could end really poorly.)

As to the losers, well, you have to start with the Steelers. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse from 2018, well, it does. They coulda ended up with the Bills top pick (9th overall), as well as, essentially, two picks very similar to what they got from Oakland. If only AB hadn’t blown that all up mid-week. They would have been assured of a potential cornerstone defensive player with that pick – given the way this draft is shaping up – or were in prime position, potentially, to trade down from that pick should someone fall in love with a QB.

Not anymore. And JuJu could be a potential loser in all of this as well, at least to some degree. He is eligible for a contract extension after this season, but with no more AB on the outside, and an offensive now drastically different from the one he entered the league with, his production could take a hit. Yes, the Steelers draft WRs better than anyone else, and they may land a Jamison Crowder type to help in free agency and they could reinvent their offense by nabbing a tight end in the first round, too, which would help. But I have a suspicion someone’s numbers are going to decline, perhaps starkly.

But that’s of no concern to Brown, now. He’s got his ring. He’s going to catch another 100 balls next season, one way or the other. There is still a bust waiting for him in Canton one day, and he managed to get himself paid, again, just two-years after resetting the receiver market in Pittsburgh, despite being over 30, and having what appeared to be scant leverage when this all fell apart for good in Week 17.

And maybe, just maybe, he can have a laugh about it all with a former teammate a few days from now. In Pittsburgh West.



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