Antonio Brown trade: Raiders' costs, benefits of pursuing wide receiver


INDIANAPOLIS -- The Raiders are meeting with several top wide receivers here at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Count Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel and Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown among them.

The Silver and Black need a positional overhaul at receiver, as Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts are the only experienced options on the roster. Realistically, the Raiders need at No. 1 receiver. And a No. 2. Maybe a No. 3.

A relatively weak free-agent class might help, but not much.

The draft, however, can help fill some of those spots. Maybe not all of them.

“This wide receiver class is different than a lot of years,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said on Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “A lot of years, you have a dominant one or two or three wideouts where you go, ‘they’re clearly the top three.’ What we’re seeing this is that there are good wideouts for about three or four rounds, solid guys who can come in and start for you. But I don’t think there are any guys who are going to say that they’re the No. 1 wideout in this draft. I think it’s more about finding guys who fit scheme-wise. That’s what we’re trying to figure out now.”

There’s a clear-cut, no-doubt-about-it receiver out there, though he’s currently a Pittsburgh Steeler.

For how much much longer remains to be seen. Antonio Brown has made a trade request the Steelers are willing to grant, though they’re asking for a king’s ransom.

Multiple teams have reached out to inquire about acquiring Brown, and NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Friday that the Raiders are one.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden was asked that question directly on Thursday, and evaded it.

"I don't know. I don't have any comment on any of that,” Gruden said in a side session with Raiders beat reporters. “I'm not going to take the cheese on that."

He’d have to give up some cheddar for Brown, possibly one of the Raiders’ four draft picks in the top 35. Then they’d likely have to restructure Brown’s contract, despite it already paying the five-time All-Pro top dollar.

Oh, and he’ll be 31 in July. Is that the right move for a rebuilding team several major upgrades from contention in the AFC West? They’d have to give up draft capital that could’ve been used on a younger, cheaper receiver that could help in the short and long term.

Draft prospects are unproven commodities. Brown, by contrast, is a sure thing.

Gruden heaped praise on Brown before playing Pittsburgh during the 2018 season, though that came before a well-publicized argument with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He called Brown a tireless worker, a dynamic threat.

It’s hard to argue those points in this cost-benefit analysis, though Gruden’s preferences must also be weighed.

“Well, I don’t like veteran players, so I’ll just leave it at that," Gruden said with tongue firmly in cheek. "I’m not going to speculate about anybody. We are going to look at every vehicle possible. Certainly the financial part of every acquisition has to be considered, but we are going to look into everybody’s availability and what we think is best for our team.”

Gruden has also said some of the team’s $71 million in salary-cap space will be reserved in case an attractive trade proposal becomes available during the draft.

[RELATED: Gruden denies trying to manipulate draft with QB praise]

The Raiders coach and chief personnel man is setting up the possibility of acquiring Brown as he reconstructs his receiver corps, and getting Brown won’t stop the Raiders from drafting more help down the road.

The cost to get Brown is unknown, though his recent perception as a volatile presence must also be weighed as the Raiders make an important decision about the direction and pace of their rebuild. If they’re as patient as they’ve promised to be, acquiring talent to help this team as it transitions to Las Vegas, sacrificing assets for Brown might not be proper tact. He would help the Raiders win faster, especially if the Silver and Black strike with their post-trade high draft picks and a select few free-agent targets.

Brown’s market price will continue to develop as we near the NFL draft, and the Raiders must determine his worth versus what it would cost to get him.

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