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Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

It was after midnight on Saturday night on the East Coast when the news broke. After a week full of on-again, off-again rumors and a deal with Buffalo that was apparently nixed at the last minute, the Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly agreed to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders. In return, the Steelers will receive two picks -- third- and fifth-rounders -- in this year's draft.

The Raiders will also sign Brown to a new contract -- three years, more than $30 million guaranteed, with potential to earn up to $54 million. Brown had three years remaining on his contract with Pittsburgh, with a total of zero dollars guaranteed.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is getting more than draft picks in this deal: according to Adam Schefter, they are also picking up more than $21 million in dead money, believed to be the largest one-year hit in league history.

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55 comments, Last at 23 Mar 2019, 9:21pm

1 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

I don't pay too close of attention to NFL contracts/cap situations because they can seemingly be made up as they go along and oftentimes disappeared just as easily. The Steelers getting left holding a 21 million dollar bag though is pretty incredible and frankly the most interesting part of the whole story to me. How does that end up happening? I mean, both in terms of how that dead money is generated when part of this process was a new contract being negotiated, and how do the Steelers allow themselves to get stuck with that bill?

4 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

At the point when they agreed to the last contract, the Steelers had no reason to believe that Brown wouldn't be on the team until its conclusion. Hell, if you'd told me in mid-December that they'd be trading Brown, I wouldn't have believed you. It's an extraordinary set of circumstances.

And it's not hard to imagine the Raiders having to deal with a similar situation in a year or two.

9 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

"And it's not hard to imagine the Raiders having to deal with a similar situation in a year or two."

Does anyone actually know what AB's gripe with Pittsburgh was? I mean they're a playoff team, he's very involved in the offense and they were paying him like one of the league's best. What's to be grumpy about?

22 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

Ha ha!

I read somewhere that the passing DVOA that Cooper face while at the Raiders was very tough, and while at the Cowboys was very easy. Plus, Gruden force-fed Jared Cook pretty well. It's (obviously) no sure thing, but my money is on Brown having at least one productive season with the Raiders.

42 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

Sorry, my previous comment is a bit of a mess.

What I was trying to say is that Cooper played against very strong pass defenses (as measured by DVOA) while at the Raiders and very (or relatively) easy ones while at the Cowboys. That might explain the dramatic change in his performance (as measured by his conventional stats) better than the change of coaching staff or scheme.

I don't know what the offensive DVOAs of the Raiders and Cowboys were with and without Cooper.

19 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

Setting aside the locker room/relationship stuff and whether he'll be happy playing for the Raiders, Brown goes from being owed $38.9 million over the next 3 seasons ($0 guaranteed) to now being in line to earn a reported $54.1 million over the same time frame with $30 million guaranteed. Full details aren't out yet, but it looks like he landed a pretty substantial increase in both guaranteed and "likely to be earned" money.

26 Exactly

Steelers treat their players even more shabbily than the NFL norm and now the chickens have come home to roost.

27 Re: Exactly

In reply to by RobotBoy

How was he treated "shabbily" by the Steelers? Being made the highest paid WR in the league? Being the most targeted WR in the league (yet still throwing sideline tantrums when he felt he wasn't being force fed the football enough)?

29 Re: Exactly

In reply to by Steve B

Brown's extension was good in terms of AAV, but the lack of guarantees combined with the length made it less valuable in terms of what he was ultimately likely to earn and/or be able to negotiate for in his next deal.

Now - did Brown have to sign that extension? No. But, as Barnwell points out, he had been pretty significantly underpaid during his 1st and 2nd contracts. It would appear that the Steelers used that as leverage with the contract that they agreed to with Brown in 2017. Brown, unhappy, decided to use his leverage this year and came away with a pretty decent amount of money to show for it.

28 Re: Exactly

In reply to by RobotBoy

Barnwell's piece is very good. Funny enough, their extension offer to Bell last offseason makes more sense to me now. I thought it was ridiculous in how little incentive it gave Bell to accept in the context of already having been tagged, but now I realize it was in keeping with their overall organizational philosophy.

(If Pittsburgh didn't value Bell given that he plays RB, that would have been fine. But if that was actually their thought process, why tag him in the first place, let alone twice, let alone offer him an extension?)

It also goes to show: if you are going to maintain an inflexible approach that squeezes your players, especially your star players, don't be surprised if they hit back out at you. They didn't just lose their star RB and WR, they were ghosted by Bell after he led them to believe he would report, and now they've been forced by Brown to eat a $22 million dead cap charge.

The worst part is that all sides might end up worse off than they could have been in the end.

30 Re: Exactly

In reply to by dank067

You also have to factor in AB becoming one of the biggest malcontents in the league over the past few seasons. Routinely skipping meetings, throwing sideline tantrums and, finally, apparently walking out on his team a couple days before a must win game? Oh, there was also the apparent growing jealousy of JuJu's emergence with the team.

Yeah, he got his money, but there was apparently only one team willing to do so and look who it was. I mean, does it seem smart to hand that much guaranteed coin to a soon to be 31 year old WR?

Re: Bell. They should've traded him last summer instead of expecting that he would play on the tag again.

31 Re: Exactly

In reply to by Steve B

We know of one other team (BUF) that was publicly interested in Brown and reportedly two others (WAS, PHI). Anyone willing to take on Brown obviously assumes the risk of him continuing to be a diva, but at the end of the day it's not crazy to conclude that this is mostly about money and it's noticeable that the Steelers organization has simultaneously had issues with Bell.

A top of the market deal for his age 31-33 seasons does give me more pause

32 Re: Exactly

In reply to by dank067

Again, with the exception of Philly, look at the teams we're talking about. And apparently in the end only one was truly willing to give that much guaranteed coin. Otherwise, the Steelers surely would've gotten more than a third and fifth in return. As far as Bell goes, the Colts, who seem like they're close again to being a serious SB threat, have already said 'no thanks'. If the Jets or Raiders hand him a mega deal, should everyone really say 'smart move'?

Again, the Steelers made AB the highest paid WR in the league. He was all smiles at the press conference afterward while simultaneously becoming a bigger asshole behind the scenes. They also just made Pouncey the highest paid center and continue paying Shazier even though he's unable to play.

I really think this was only a little about money and wouldn't be surprised at all if he wants off the Raiders in a year or two.

35 Re: Exactly

In reply to by Steve B

So if a smart team isn't interested in Bell, that validates the Steelers, who franchise tagged him twice?

And if Brown had a contract that should have made him so happy, how did he manage to engineer a trade and negotiate such a significant raise in guaranteed money within its existing time window? I don't know how many other teams would have been willing to pay that much, and I don't know if Brown would have accepted the same terms from the Steelers if they decided to re-negotiate. I do think Brown was pretty obviously correct in identifying he was undervalued in his existing contract, just like he had been through most of his career in Pittsburgh. It sure looks to me like it was about the money.

48 Re: Exactly

In reply to by dank067


1. Like I said, they shouldn't have assumed he would play on the tag twice

2. Because the Raiders. Everything I've read indicates they were the only team willing to do this.

44 Re: Exactly

In reply to by Steve B

There's been a long enough history of skill position players holding out in Pittsburg now that I'm not sure how much of a malcontent AB actually is, and how much it's just a poor workplace.

At some point they need to ask - is being cheap costing them more than it's saving?

47 Re: Exactly

In reply to by Hoodie_Sleeves

I'd say "no". They've managed to be one of the AFC's contender for as long as I can remember. And they've probably got the best WR factory in the league.

As you know, the Pats wouldn't have paid AB anything over $10m if that. Being cheap hasn't harmed them at all.

So to me, the question is why do players holdout in Pittsburgh but not New England. And I suspect the answer is that the Pats are clear on not paying big money to skill position players whereas the Steelers gave in and paid AB like a top 5 WR a year or two ago.

49 Re: Exactly

In reply to by Hoodie_Sleeves

"I'm not sure how much of a malcontent AB actually is"

Did you just come out of a coma? I'd put the over/under on his first sideline tantrum with the Raiders at week 8.

2 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

So in effect the Raiders traded Amari Cooper, a 3d and a 5th for Antonio Brown and a 1st. I’d say that worked out well, and I’m a Cooper fan.

5 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

That's a pretty paltry return for the Steelers. I was assuming Brown would cost a first-rounder at the very minimum.

Also, why couldn't Pittsburgh have traded Le'Veon Bell like this last year, instead of making him sit out and then getting nothing? Is the Brown trade an overcorrection after that experience? It looks like the Steelers brass screwed up both negotiations in the end. I would expect as much from Washington, but Pittsburgh? Yikes.

50 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

^ This.

- A player on the tag but who has not signed the franchise tender is not under contract and cannot be traded.
- But also, he is not a free agent and cannot negotiate with other teams.
- A player on the tag can negotiate a new contract until July 15th.
- Between July 16th and Week 10 the player's only options are sign the tender or sit out.
- After Week 10 the player has to sit out the rest of the season. He is still not a free agent until the new league year begins in March.

43 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

Well, Raiders alreadt past denver. ARaiders Coaching stagg year inder belt. Broncks new staff, dont know what they are dojng yet. J. Elway doesnt know wbat he is doing. Raiders plenty of good draft picks, got Antonio Brown, jisy need to fix soem holes which will be done this spring. Team eill be set to battle for afc wets crown

8 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

It feels like Al Davis has been resurrected.

A 3rd & 5th for a player with six consecutive seasons of 100+ recs is a good deal for the Raiders

And importantly I think he'll fit Gruden's WCO scheme really well.

15 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

Kind of incredible that AB's behavior ended up paying off so well. He gets a raise and a lot of guaranteed money. He even had some choice in where he went since he apparently scuttled the potential deal to Buffalo.

36 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

Brown played hardball and it worked. He managed to extract a lot of the surplus from the trade, taking it away from the Steelers.

Raiders are giving up some combination of $ and draft picks in order to get Brown under contract for 3 years. The more $ it costs them, the less draft value they're willing to give up. The less $ it costs them, the more draft value they're willing to include.

Brown's refused to play under his old contract and got the Raiders to add an extra $12M or so to the deal, so the Raiders were only willing to give up a later draft pick. If we use the standard draft value chart and let the Osweiler salary dump ($16M for a 2nd round pick) set the scale for draft value vs. money, it looks like the Raiders would've been willing to give up one of their borderline 1st/2nd round picks (either pick 27 or pick 35) for Brown if not for the new contract. Instead the Steelers just get pick 66 & pick 141.

38 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

There are plenty of free agents who would probably make their team better - Earl Thomas, Le'Veon Bell, CJ Mosley, Justin Houston, Jared Cook, Golden Tate, etc. Any money that they spend on Brown is money that they can't spend on those guys, and it's not like they're going to run out of FA options who they could spend money on.

45 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

ESPN reporting that the Raiders have traded Osmele to the Jets. This seems to partially nullify the Brown acquisition due to poorer QB protection unless they have OL depth that I am (quite possibly) unaware of.

46 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

This is proobably the thing they should have done last year (or new acquired in FA in the first place). They made their two guards, among the highest paid in the league. And then didn't have the money/cap to pay Khalil Mack. As I understand it, guard is not a position you pay premium money for.

51 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

I've been a defender of his over the last few years, but at this point Tomlin has to go. He isn't a big x's-and-o's guy, his strength is supposed to be his ability to lead the players and get everyone on the same page. These past two years, he's failed at that so badly that two of their three biggest stars have flat-out refused to play for the team. If you're employing a head coach for his leadership skills alone, he better be a damn good leader, and it doesn't look like he has been lately. I think it's time to move on, and probably from Colbert too considering that his rigid approach to contract negotiation played a big part in driving Bell and Brown away.

55 Re: Steelers Trading Brown to Raiders

He's not a big X's-and-O's guy? The man was a defensive coordinator before coming to Pittsburgh. What do you think he was doing in that job - picking up coffee for the HC? Good lord...

This is more about the team's contract philosophy regarding non-QBs. You can't have rigid rules regarding guaranteed money and extension timing for everyone except Ben, especially if he isn't a locker room favorite. The Steelers should've seen this coming from AB. To be fair, I don't think too many people other than Revis and Sean Gilbert would've sat out the season in Bell's case, so I give them a pass on the Bell situation.