PHOENIX – The Raiders were never giving up a first-round draft pick for Antonio Brown. They jumped at the opportunity to acquire him when the Pittsburgh Steelers' trade demands went down, and they ultimately got him for a third-round pick, a fifth-rounder and a significant raise.
It wasn’t part of the team’s free-agency plan. It also wasn’t something they could pass up.
“It was a game-changer,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said in an interview Monday with Raiders beat reporters at the NFL owners meeting. “We feel like he’s still in the prime of his career, and that his interests are aligned with our interests. He’s going to have a little chip on his shoulder and show everybody how good he is.”
Brown certainly shows everyone how hard he works. Gym sessions are often broadcast live on Instagram. Well-edited hype videos document trips to East Bay parks with quarterback Derek Carr. And, sometimes, there’s no point to Brown’s posts at all. He just talk to the public on social channels as part of a non-stop modern marketing machine.
The Raiders like Brown's all-access pass as he builds excitement during this offseason stretch.
“I love it. I’m not even on … what’s he use? Instagram?” Mayock said. “My wife shows me stuff, and I get fired up when I see him fired up and working with our guys, whether it’s at our facility or at a park or in Fresno. It’s a really cool dynamic.
“Players recognize talent. Tyrell Williams wants to come play with him. Derek Carr can’t wait to throw with him. The dynamic in our building changed a little bit, and it has been fun watching him.”
Brown won his introductory press conference, promising to set a new standard for work ethic and accountability on this roster. Saying it is easy. Backing it up takes constant work and maintenance.
But Brown seems committed to making the most of his fresh start, planning to lead and produce at an All-Pro level. If he can do both things, Brown will start his career’s next chapter off right.
The last one didn’t end well, tainted by disagreements with Pittsburgh teammates and coaches. He left the team for a stretch and didn’t play in the final game of the 2018 season, virtually assuring his Steelers exit.
The Raiders did their homework, though, and aren’t concerned about Brown pouting in the face of adversity or discontent. They believe he’ll be a positive force while wearing silver and black.
“I think I know enough about his history and background,” Mayock said. “I did do a pretty deep dive with some of the people I know in Pittsburgh, but the point is that, for the majority of his career, could you criticize him for wanting the football more? Sure. Tell me a great receiver who doesn’t want the ball. He has some of that in him, but he was a positive force in that building for a lot of years. Whatever happened last year happened. I look at it in the opposite (way).
“He’s a little pissed off. He has something to prove. I think he’s going to come out and prove it in Oakland next year, and we’re going to be the beneficiaries.”