Three veteran additions who will make biggest impact on Raiders season

Three veteran additions who will make biggest impact on Raiders season

We’ve seen this new Raiders roster in snippets, during occasional offseason practices open to the press. We’ve been given clear examples of chemistry during this growth period, more often in team-sanctioned photos and individual Instagram stories.

That’s an objective during a relatively slow stretch, with games still months away.

Intensity elevates in training camp later this month, and mettle will be tested with pads and physicality and Napa’s never-ending work schedule. Then things get real when guys start getting cut and this team finally starts playing for keeps.

That’s when we’ll see how much of an impact these new veterans have on a Raiders roster skewing dramatically younger. Leaders must be stable during tough times, making others better with words and, far more often, with action. Here are three veteran additions who should make the greatest overall impact on the 2019 Raiders:

WR Antonio Brown

Brown might be the NFL’s hardest worker. The man never quits, going full speed in every practice and walk-through, with individual side sessions at high schools and Bay Area parks after being acquired in a trade. He takes workouts on vacation, finding time to get better while in Maui. He crowd-sourced workout partners in Paris. While many do as much without putting it all on social media, Brown is showing everyone, teammates included, that his grind never stops.

He has set a new standard for work rate and practice effort, which should lead to major on-field production. That, above all else, will be his greatest contribution in 2019. Putting up just average numbers (for him) would be a huge boon for all things Raiders, and give the Silver and Black a true superstar who comes through in the clutch.

All is good right now, but it will be important for Brown to maintain positive energy even when things hit the skids during the regular season. The Raiders will have rough patches navigating a brutal schedule. Brown’s used to 10 wins per year. How will he handle losing streaks? That will be as important as anything. If he keeps working hard for better days, the skill players will follow suit. If he sulks, lulls could last longer.

DB Lamarcus Joyner

Joyner isn’t much of a rah-rah guy, but he’s highly respected throughout the talented young secondary. Safeties love him. Cornerbacks respect him. Both positions can learn something from someone who has done it well for a long time.

While he focused on slot cornerback during this offseason program, his impact will be felt in several areas. He’s undoubtedly the team’s best free safety and can slide over there in the base defense if the Karl Joseph/Johnathan Abram pairing doesn’t pan out.

He should be a stabilizing force in the entire secondary both as a sage and a productive player who can quiet part of an opponent’s passing game. He isn’t afraid to mix things up and can make others better around him, making this secondary far better than it was a year ago. Joyner didn’t come cheap in free agency, but he’ll be worth the freight if he plays to his high standard and helps others improve during the season either through words or example.

[RELATED: Entire Raiders draft class signed up as Jacobs inks deal]

LB Vontaze Burfict

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says there were aspects of his defensive scheme he didn’t use last year without a trusted field general to execute it.

That’s not a slight on Tahir Whitehead or Nicholas Morrow. Guenther’s defense can be complicated and takes time to master. Nobody, however, knows it better than Burfict. The veteran linebacker ran it for years in Cincinnati and has a kinship with Guenther that is evident on the field.

Burfict’s a Raider now, and he has been helpful teaching subtle nuances of this scheme to his teammates despite being a new kid in town. He has been a great asset during the offseason, and he will be again in training camp.

He’ll have to prove productive to sustain a positive impact. His last season was a struggle, with injuries and concussion issues sapping his availability and effectiveness. He’s on this list due to a belief he’ll get right and be effective in the base defense at least. Burfict has been a solid tackler and tone-setter who plays right on the edge, sometimes going over it, in his past. Finding vintage on-field form and sustained health will be key to maximizing his impact. That’s important for a defense that needs Burfict at his best.

Why Antonio Brown might hate Patriots as he did Raiders after release


Why Antonio Brown might hate Patriots as he did Raiders after release

Antonio Brown famously celebrated when the Raiders released him two weeks ago, shouting he was “free” of a team he believed had wronged him by voiding $29.125 million in contract guarantees over a reported run-in with general manager Mike Mayock.

Brown was released again Friday, when the Patriots decided enough was enough, but the wide receiver was much kinder to Bill Belichick and Co. in the aftermath. He tweeted a thank-you message to Belichick, and his appreciative Instagram post to Tom Brady even drew a three-hearts response from the quarterback.

All love likely will be lost, however, if the Patriots follow the Raiders’ lead and try to void the money it once guaranteed Brown. And, as ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler pointed out, that’s quite possible.

When Brown joined the Patriots, he received a $1 million fully guaranteed salary and a $9 million signing bonus. By ESPN’s calculation, Brown was paid $158,333 in salary and roster bonuses by the Patriots, who now can argue that the personal-conduct nature of his release allows them to void the remaining $850,000 or so in guaranteed money. It’s the same argument the Raiders made when they wiped Brown’s guarantees off their books, which angered the receiver.

Now, here’s where the Patriots likely went wrong and the Raiders did not (yes, you read that correctly).

ESPN reported that Oakland, unlike New England, did not include signing-bonus money in Brown’s contract. And while the Patriots haven’t yet paid the receiver the first installment of his bonus — that’s due Monday, for $5 million — a league source told ESPN “the team's way out of it is through a representation warranty clause that says it's a breach of contract if Brown didn't disclose an existing situation that would have prevented his continued availability” — like his former trainer’s sexual-assault lawsuit against him, or the other allegations that since have been revealed.

If the Patriots refuse to pay Brown his signing-bonus money next week and the remaining $4 million on Jan. 15, the NFL Players Association surely will back the receiver. A source told ESPN that the union sees signing bonuses as "money earned” — no matter when payments are scheduled — and NFL contract language makes it even more complicated to void a guaranteed signing bonus.

So, if the Patriots come for that $9 million, they can expect Brown and the union to file a grievance — and to have a strong case. The NFLPA also doesn’t want to allow teams to escape lucrative signing bonuses promised to players, so it would fight hard for Brown.

[RELATED: AB's departure shows true nature of 'The Patriot Way']

The Raiders, meanwhile, are on much stronger footing, with Brown’s documented personal-conduct issues and no signing bonus in his now-voided contract. Their focus is on Sunday’s road game against the Minnesota Vikings, not a messy money fight, like what might now await the Patriots.

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NFL issues statement on ex-Raider Antonio Brown's status after release

NFL issues statement on ex-Raider Antonio Brown's status after release

We have yet another chapter in the seemingly never-ending Antonio Brown saga.

The NFL released a statement Friday night updating the league’s position on the former Raiders wide receiver’s recent conduct.

The most interesting note here is that due to Brown’s status as an unrestricted free agent, the league cannot place him on the commissioner’s exempt list, which would essentially place AB on paid leave from the NFL until the league is through with its investigating.

“As long as Mr. Brown is a free agent, placement on the commissioner’s exempt list is not appropriate," a league spokesperson wrote. "If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation.”

Brown was released by the New England Patriots on Friday, just 11 days after the team signed the embattled receiver following a very public war of words with the Raiders and the team’s front office. 

AB has also been accused by multiple women of sexual assault in recent weeks, including in a federal lawsuit filed by his former trainer, Britney Taylor.

A Sports Illustrated article published this week highlighted the other allegation -- from a former artist of Brown’s -- who he reportedly sent threatening messages to after the allegations surfaced.

[RELATED: Antonio Brown's swift release highlights true nature of 'Patriot Way']

For now, Brown remains in the free agency pool with hundreds of other players hoping to sign with an NFL team. 

As the negative headlines continue to stack up, it’s looking increasingly likely that AB has used up all of his goodwill in finding a new employer.