Raiders preferred paying Brown over sure thing like Bears’ Khalil Mack
Jon Gruden’s Raiders are preparing to spend one-third of their “savings” in the Khalil Mack trade on Antonio Brown, a soon-to-be 31-year-old wide receiver whose on-field decline in Oakland will be about the only thing predictable about him nowaways.
Looking for a winner in the Brown deal, outside of Brown, who flexed his way from a better football situation in Pittsburgh to a better financial one with the Raiders? How about the Bears? They’re paying annually Mack, perhaps the game’s best player at the most important position outside of quarterback, $23.5 million, while Brown, arguably the game’s best but inarguably at the moment also its most volatile receiver, a non-premium position, nearly $20 million per season until he’s 33.
Mack had never missed a game at the time of the trade, while Brown missed three games with injuries from 2016-17 and sat out the biggest game of the Steelers’ 2018 season because he put himself before his team. There’s simply no way to spin for the Raiders choosing to pay a volatile, aging wideout over a rock-solid homegrown pass rusher.
By the way, the Bears managed last offseason to land not only Mack but WR Allen Robinson, who approaches his age 26 campaign, for less than $26 million guaranteed. Which receiver would you rather have over the remainder of their current deals is debatable. Robinson isn’t accomplished as Brown, but he appears poised for a monster Year 2 with the Bears, who won’t have to worry about whether he’ll show up or be in sync with their young quarterback, either.
Beyond the resources allocated to their blockbuster acquisitions, the Bears’ and Raiders’ differing timelines toward competing must be factored in as well. Mack’s arrival catalyzed the Bears’ first division title in eight seasons. A best-case scenario for the rebuilding Raiders with Brown might be flirting with .500. In other words, GM Ryan Pace made his move at the ideal time, while we’re all left scratching our heads how Gruden’s 4-12 return to the Raiders convinced him they’re a diva future Hall of Fame receiver away from turning things around.
Barring any final curveballs in this unfortunate Brown saga, the Bears will see Gruden’s Raiders and their new star receiver in London next season. We’ll look forward to comparing the trajectories at that time of both teams with their star trade acquisitions.