Jon Gruden is an Antonio Brown fan.
That was crystal clear in December 2018, before the Raiders and Steelers clashed at Oakland Coliseum. Gruden heaped praise on the five-time All-Pro receiver back then, even going so far as to say it wasn’t just an empty compliment.
Gruden believes Brown can do it all because of incredible work ethic.
“They move him around everywhere,” Gruden said back in early December. “You don’t know where he’s going to be. He can run every route you dream up. I say that about other receivers but he can run double moves, he can run by you, he can run crossing routes, he’s very good after the catch.
“What’s the greatest thing about this man, I’ve told all of our receivers, if you get a chance to watch him practice, you’ll see what unlocks the greatness in him. He’s the hardest working man, I think, in football. Hardest working player I’ve ever seen practice. I’ve seen Jerry Rice, I’ve seen a lot of good ones, but I put Antonio Brown at the top. If there are any young wideouts out there, I’d go watch him practice. You figure out yourself why he’s such a good player.”
Brown doesn’t want to practice with the Steelers anymore. Or play for them, for that matter. He requested a trade on Tuesday morning, hoping to play for someone else during the 2019 season.
It’s uncertain if the Steelers will make a move. They have played hardball with superstars before. Just ask Le’Veon Bell about that.
Let's also make something crystal clear: It's uncertain if the Raiders have interest in a Brown trade. We just don't know, and the Silver and Black couldn't talk about that while he's employed by the Steelers.
But ... several fan bases are freaking out over the prospect of seeing Brown different colors. Count Raider Nation in that group.
The Gruden compliment provides hope to fans wanting Brown, though it doesn't guarantee the Raiders will have interest in a trade. Gruden compliments so many and doesn’t employ them all.
The Raiders certainly have the means to acquire Brown. They have the draft capital in every round to make a deal, and a solid working relationship with the Steelers after making two trades with them last year.
They can afford Brown’s contract, which includes $12.65 million, $11.3 million and $12.5 million base salaries, respectively, over the next three years.
Brown will be 31 next season, but Gruden has gotten tons from veteran receivers, including top-tier talents Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Before you poo-poo that comparison, Brown is on that elite receiver level.
The Raiders are also in need of a positional overhaul at receiver, with only Jordy Nelson guaranteed to return from last year’s crew. Brown would step in as a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, something few, if anyone, in a relatively week free-agent receiver class could do.
The Raiders could still select a receiver high in the draft who could develop while helping as a second or third option.
There’s certainly a strong case for exploring Brown’s addition and what it might take to land this talent, but we haven’t hit the cons list.
The Raiders are more than a top receiver away from legitimate contention. They could be better served by addressing more needs with the trade capital and funds required to get Brown in Silver and Black.
We’ve also seen in recent weeks that Brown can be a temperamental, mercurial sort who might not be good for a young locker room and a team that could lose a lot more before a roster rebuild can add wins.
There’s plenty to weigh on the Brown front, but it’s all relative to what the Steelers want in return -- if they’ll even trade him in the first place.