Raiders

Antonio Brown explains how early camaraderie will help Raiders win

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NBC SPORTS CALIFORNIA

Antonio Brown explains how early camaraderie will help Raiders win

ALAMEDA -- Antonio Brown has done extensive work building a rapport with quarterback Derek Carr and a receiver corps he wants to lead.

That’s an effort he started shortly after being traded to the Raiders in March, with all the extra time spent with his quarterback. He went to Carr’s son’s birthday party in Fresno. He has been over to Carr’s house, and they’ve found East Bay parks or university fields to work on timing and chemistry.

“I think it did help connecting with him early on,” Brown said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “As the offseason continues, I’ll continue to get better. I think he learned firsthand working out, and that I’m always trying to get faster. I’m excited and grateful to be here continuing to put my will on display and help the team out.”

Brown can’t help the team scoring touchdowns in May. He can demand better from his position group and leading by example by practicing his tail off.

“Camaraderie is key,” Brown said. “You need that to win and get to know the guys and have their back. I’m out here to do that, and show what I’m about.”

Some may take that quote an apply it as a shot at Pittsburgh, and the divisiveness often emanating from previous Steelers locker rooms. That wasn’t a cannonball across the bow, or a podium misstep.

Brown doesn’t make those. He’s as polished as it gets in front of the press, sticking to his message and filling downtime with a megawatt smile.

Tuesday was all about chemistry and understanding those he’s working with and for. That, he says, is why he has put so much effort into making an excellent early impression on his new team.

“You want that respect for a guy, to know what he stands for and where he comes from so you can be on the same page and do what you desire to do,” Brown said. “We have a desire to win.”

Brown previously talked about setting a new standard for work ethic within his position group, about instituting fines for mistakes and creating accountability within a new locker room culture.

That has already been instituted in meeting rooms as he tries to lead a position group also featuring Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant and Hunter Renfrow.

“We’re bringing the juice, challenging each other every day,” Brown said. “We’re holding each other accountable, for knowing what to do and how to do it.”

There’s someone holding Brown accountable as well. Gruden is pushing his superstar receiver hard, just as he did previously working with Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in their 30s.

Brown admits surprise at Gruden’s unwavering intensity and welcomes someone above matching his intensity.

[RELATED: Mayock, Raiders stand behind Incognito deal]

“He challenged me from the meeting room to the field, lining me up in all kinds of positions,” Brown said. “He’s hurrying up the offense to see if I can handle it.

“…He’s excited every day. I thought he would slow it down during the offseason, but he’s always high energy. I love the passion. There’s never a dull moment with him.”

NFL rumors: Teams sensing opportunity to trade for Raiders' Derek Carr

NFL rumors: Teams sensing opportunity to trade for Raiders' Derek Carr

The Raiders have a new home and soon will occupy a brand-new stadium. Might they also have a new quarterback under center for the first snap of the 2020 season?

There has been rampant speculation that Las Vegas might be interested in trading for legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or possibly trading up to acquire one of the top QB prospects in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Should either situation play out, but especially the former, it almost would certainly mean Derek Carr would be moved elsewhere.

Carr carries a $21.5 million cap hit for the 2020 season, and it would be almost impossible to field a competitive team with that much salary allocated to a backup.

Coach Jon Gruden gave a lukewarm endorsement of the quarterback following the Raiders' final season in Oakland, but both he and general manager Mike Mayock have maintained they'll look at every possible way to upgrade the roster for the team's first season in Sin City. Whether or not that means replacing Carr is anyone's guess, but if that's the route they choose to go, it sounds as if they might not have trouble finding a trade partner.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vincent Bonsignore reported Tuesday night that momentum is building towards teams inquiring with the Raiders about potentially trading for Carr.

Carr has three more seasons left on his current contract, so any team that would acquire him would either need to have ample cap space or send some significant salary back to the Raiders. He'll turn 29 years old next month, and one could argue he's just entering his prime after posting career-bests in passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating last season.

[RELATED: Carr unfazed by questions on Raiders future, brother says]

If Carr isn't the Raiders' QB for the first season in Vegas, they better be confident they've found a better fit for the organization moving forward.

2020 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. explains his two Raiders selections

2020 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. explains his two Raiders selections

In an offseason full of Tom Brady-to-Las-Vegas rumors, one thing is for certain: The Raiders must find upgrades at receiver and linebacker. 

With two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders can do exactly that in slightly over two months. They're sure to look at the free-agent market as well, but finding instant contributors on rookie contracts is a must for a team looking to make the leap next season. 

This is especially true with the Raiders reportedly willing to offer Brady a two-year, $60 million contract.

Still, Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock can shore up their two biggest positions of need right away in the draft. That's exactly what ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. did in his latest mock draft. Kiper gave the Raiders receiver Jerry Jeudy at No. 12 and linebacker Kenneth Murray at No. 19. 

The longtime draft expert explained his selections in a conference call on Wednesday. 

"I have Kenneth Murray going there at 19, linebacker from Oklahoma, and have them taking Jerry Jeudy from Alabama at 12," Kiper said. "So you get the linebacker -- whether it's Murray or Patrick Queen from LSU at 19, then you get the receiver. I think it's CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma or it's Jeudy from Alabama at No. 12." 

In an ideal world for the Raiders, Clemson's do-it-all hybrid linebacker Isaiah Simmons would fall right in their lap. But Kiper said he can't see that happening without a major trade from Mayock. He has the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Simmons with the No. 9 pick. 

Myself and Josh Schrock, however, have Simmons going even higher at No. 4 to the New York Giants in our latest mock draft. We do agree with the positions Kiper has the Raiders targeting, but gave the Silver and Black his second options. 

While Kiper has Lamb going to the New York Jets at No. 11 and Jeudy to the Raiders one pick later, we sent Lamb to Las Vegas and Jeudy being taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the next pick. The two are that close and either one would instantly boost the Raiders' receiver corps. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' 2019 rookies are laying bedrock for success]

Murray originally wound up as a Raider in our first two editions of our mock draft, but Queen seems like he has more upside and is a better fit for the modern NFL. Murray is a fine athlete in his own regard, but Queen is much more explosive and better in coverage.

Queen's side-to-side range is what truly sets him apart. 

Either way, the consensus is out that the Raiders likely will target receivers and linebackers in this year's draft. Any combination of Jeudy, Lamb, Murray or Queen will be huge for the Raiders' rise after a seven-win season.