Trent Brown got paid left-tackle money, a premium generally afforded to those protecting a quarterback’s blind side. Stability’s vital to that gig, where the best offensive tackles generally play.
The Raiders bucked the long-standing tradition, paying Brown a record contract to play on the right side.
That was tough for some to grasp before Raiders head coach Jon Gruden confirmed the decision recently.
Brown has played both sides of the line, on the right for years with the 49ers and left last season following a trade to New England. His Patriots tenure, especially an excellent postseason performance, earned a massive four-year, $66 million deal from the Raiders with $36.25 million guaranteed.
Brown never stated a preference to remain on the left, and seemed content with the Raiders decision to send him back to the right side.
“It is what it is,” Brown said after Tuesday’s OTA session at the Raiders’ Alameda training facility. “I knew all along I was going to be placed where they needed me, and I was fine with the decision.”
The decision wasn’t all about Brown. The Raiders also wanted to keep 2018 first-round pick Kolton Miller on the left side, developing into a particular role. He plays better on the left, with mixed results playing right tackle at UCLA.
“It’s just a decision that we’ve made at this point. It’s about both of them, really. It’s about Kolton and Trent,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “Certainly, we had a chance to study Trent before when he was in San Francisco. We’ve seen him on both sides. We’ve had a chance to have Kolton, obviously, on the left side, so that’s where we’ve started this spring. We feel good about that move right now.”
Brown’s versatility allowed the Raiders to play to Miller’s strength, and the transition has been smooth for the high-priced veteran.
“I’m pretty much stepping right back into it, doing what I was doing,” Brown said. “[Moving to left tackle], that was more of a transition than it was coming back to right. I definitely had to get my reps in, get my work in. it took some time, but I got comfortable over there. I think I could play either side comfortably now.”
Brown has been impactful on both sides of the line. He allowed just 39 total pressures in 2018 protecting quarterback Tom Brady, and just three sacks allowed. He allowed the exact number of pressures from the right side in 2016, his last full season with San Francisco, with six sacks in that total. His run blocking has been solid the last few years, showing surprising agility for someone who can block out the sun.
Brown is massive at 6-foot-8, 380 pounds and has been a plug-and-play free-agent acquisition. Brown credits right guard Gabe Jackson with helping him adjust, and those two could form an formidable force if they build proper chemistry this offseason.
Brown will have his hands full despite playing on a traditionally less prestigious side of the line. More top edge rushers are positioned to play the right tackle, including Denver’s Von Miller and the L.A. Chargers’ Melvin Ingram within the division. Kansas City’s Frank Clark will rotate back and forth, meaning he’ll face Brown roughly half the time.
The Raiders struggled protecting both edges last season starting Miller and 2018 third-round pick Brandon Parker as rookies.
Having stability on the right, with high hopes for Miller on the left, should help the Raiders protect far better than last year.
“Pass rushers now around the league, there’s pass rushers on either side,” Brown said. “So you have to have pretty much a good tackle on both sides.”