Earlier today, I wrote about an ESPN article in which they ranked the Pittsburgh Steelers’ trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick as the fourth-best in the NFL that season. Of the 30 trades of substance that they graded, Pittsburgh was also involved in the 30th—the trade of Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders, in exchange for draft picks in the third and fifth rounds.
While the scope of the deal is still judged by what the Steelers lost, those who were paying closer attention understand that they lost nothing, because their relationship with Brown had been rendered non-existent. If they didn’t trade him, they may well have cut him, or at least suspended him, or done something. And of course by September they would have been forced to release him anyway, given that he was accused of rape.
So the fact that they got anything for him remains a big win, no matter how it ends up being framed for posterity. For the Raiders, however, there is only one way to look at it: they got hosed. They lost two solid draft picks and got nothing for it, because they released Brown before he even played a preseason snap for them.
“I put that one me”, said rookie general manager Mike Mayock recently, speaking to The Athletic, via an article covering that piece from Pro Football Talk. “My anticipation was that he was coming off a situation in Pittsburgh where he wants to prove everybody wrong, and he wants to ride into the Hall of Fame. That he was going to come in with Jon Gruden and Derek Carr and our offense and lead the way”.
He did not, in fact, lead the way. In fact, he was rarely present. He skipped so much of the offseason for one reason or another, whether it was his helmet, his frost-bitten feet, or just being willfully subordinate, that I’m sure many of his teammates were glad to see him gone.
“I really thought we were going to get the best out of Antonio Brown, and we didn’t”, Mayock said in a sentiment that frankly Steelers fans can laugh at now. “We weren’t able to get anything out of him. So, at the end of the day, in hindsight, we lost a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick, and I can’t tell you how much pain that causes me”.
The Raiders still ended up with three first-round draft picks, using the fourth-overall pick on Clelin Ferrell before drafting running back Josh Jacobs 24th and safety Johnathan Abraham 27th. Abraham suffered a season-ending injury in the opener. Ferrell recorded 4.5 sacks with height tackles for loss, while Jacobs rushed for 1150 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt. They went 7-9, a three-win improvement from 2018.