Antonio Brown Is An Oakland Raider: Quick Reaction
Antonio Brown Traded For 3rd/5th Round Draft Picks To Oakland Raiders
Finally ending the saga that started Week 17, Antonio Brown has been traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders for a third and fifth-round draft pick. Per Adam Schefter, " Brown will receive a new three-year deal worth up to $54.125 million from the Raiders, with $30.125 million guaranteed, the source said. He previously had three years and $38.9 million left on his contract with the Steelers, with none of the money guaranteed. In the end, Brown converted the Steelers' four-year extension at $17 million per year into what amounts to $19.8 million per year in new money."
What is good for Antonio Brown is not necessarily good for the Oakland Raiders or the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the same report, Schefter concluded that 'the Steelers will be forced to swallow $21.12 million in dead money against their salary cap' and that it is likely the largest amount of dead-cap money in NFL history. The NFL salary cap is not near as stringent as the NBA salary cap but having an extreme amount of dead money is surely not optimal. The Steelers are also left without a starting wide receiver opposite JuJu Smith-Shuster. James Washington played in parts of 14 games last season but received only 38 targets for 217 yards and a touchdown. If he is not ready to play in 2019, I would expect that the Steelers would add at least one wide receiver in free agency and in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft.
For the Oakland Raiders perspective, they acquired what is now their best player on offense but are paying a fairly absurd price to do it. The draft picks are nothing, just spare pieces after getting a shipload of picks for Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Already the second-highest paid wide receiver in football, Antonio Brown is now the highest paid wide receiver by 1.8 million dollars over Odell Beckham at number two. Antonio Brown is now the only wide receiver over the age of 30 making more than 15 million per season.
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2018 was not close to a prime Antonio Brown season. He did score a league-leading 15 receiving touchdowns but those touchdowns covered up some big blemishes in his efficiency. His yards per reception was the third-lowest of his career, his catch rate was the lowest of his career, and he was the worst Steelers player with over 50 targets in adjusted yards per attempt (which includes touchdowns!). Juju Smith-Shuster, Vance McDonald and James Conner were more efficient when thrown the ball than Antonio Brown in 2018.
None of that is to say that Brown won't be good for the Raiders but I am pessimistic that he changes Derek Carr from a 6.7 adjusted yards per attempt quarterback to an 8.0 adjusted yards per attempt quarterback. The Raiders will likely win more games in 2019 and have better advanced stats than in 2018 but that is not saying much. The downside of the trade likely won't show up for a few seasons when Brown is making 19 million dollars at 34.
Antonio Brown Trade Fantasy Football Impacts
Arguably, the trade has more fantasy football impacts than real football impacts. JuJu Smith-Shuster is now at worst, a top-5 fantasy football wide receiver and has a chance to be the top overall fantasy football wide receiver. Vance McDonald, Jaylen Samuels and James Washington will all receive target bumps. Ben Roethlisberger's stock has to tank ever so slightly for mostly volume concerns. The Steelers are likely to run more often (as they were one of the pass-heaviest teams in the league in 2018) with Antonio Brown in the silver and black.
For the Raiders: Derek Carr seems to be draftable as a QB2 in best ball and dynasty leagues now. There is almost no way he finishes higher than QB12 or so but he will likely have a few spike games that will be aided by massive volume to AB. Antonio Brown himself is now at best a second-round pick in 12-team fantasy football leagues but he won't find himself on any of my teams. The declining efficiency combined with the downgrade in enviornment just isn't worth the risk for me. This also likely signals that the Raiders want to "go for it", so they are a Le'Veon Bell destination and perhaps other marquee free agents will be turning their attention to the big paychecks the Raiders are handing out.
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