Trent Brown was lone home run in Raiders offseason full of splash moves


Trent Brown was lone home run in Raiders offseason full of splash moves

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders entered last offseason in need of massive upgrades all across their roster.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock hit the ground running, dolling out big contracts to wide receiver Tyrell Williams (four years, $44 million), defensive back Lamarcus Joyner (four years, $42 million) and right tackle Trent Brown (four years, $66 million). Brown's contract made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history, a gamble for someone who has dealt with questions surrounding his work ethic and love of the game dating back to his time with the San Francisco 49ers.

Gruden and Mayock had to take some swings in free agency if the Raiders had any hope of accelerating their rebuild.

Not every move worked out according to plan.

The Silver and Black swung a trade for Antonio Brown, but he was last seen playing dress up as a rapper in a mental institution after going nuclear prior to Week 1 of the season. Brown's exodus put a lot on Williams' plate, moving him from opportunistic No. 2 wideout to the go-to guy for quarterback Derek Carr.

Carrying the load offensively has been too much to ask of Williams this season. The 27-year-old has caught 38 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns through 12 games while battling a brutal case of plantar fasciitis.

Those numbers aren't up to par with the lofty contract the Raiders gave Williams, one they can get out of this offseason for no financial penalty. Joyner, likewise, has struggled in Year 1 in Oakland, ranking No. 21 in performance among those who work either primarily or exclusively in the slot. He is giving up one reception per every 7.8 coverage snaps and his 107.1 passer rating ranks sixth worse among the 24 players with at least 201 coverage snaps from the slot.

In a word, yikes.

That's three swings and misses out of four big offseason acquisitions.

That brings us to Trent Brown. The offseason addition that raised the most eyebrows has been a complete and total home run for the Raiders. Brown, who was shut down Wednesday with a pectoral injury, allowed only one sack in 582 snaps played at right tackle and was named to his first Pro Bowl, rewarding Gruden and Mayock's belief that he could anchor a line. 

"Pretty good," Gruden said of Brown's season Wednesday when announcing the tackle was going on IR. "I mean to me he’s the best right tackle in the game. Obviously, he’s a difference-maker. If you watch us play in London. If you watch us play against any of the teams that he played against. He’s a difference-maker in pass protection, he’s a good run player, and obviously, he’s been well respected by his peers in the league."

Keeping Carr upright was a big offseason focus for Gruden and the Raiders after giving up 52 sacks a season ago. When the Raiders' offensive line was fully healthy this season, QB1 rarely was on his back. Big No. 77 had a lot to do with that. 

“He definitely makes a difference on the football games, that’s for sure," Carr said of Brown. "Him and Rodney [Hudson] getting the Pro Bowl, rightfully so, those guys are two of the best at their position. And Trent, that guy is just a monster when it comes to pass game, run game. I mean you literally see him throw grown men 8 to 10 yards off the ball, like it’s crazy what he’s able to do against some really talented people.

"So, when you lose a guy like that obviously it’s next man up, it hurts. But with the year that he had, him going to the Pro Bowl, rightfully deserved.”

The Brown signing was questioned and critiqued. Could the Raiders really get the same out of Brown that Bill Belichick and the Patriots did?

Well, Brown showed up to training camp and said all the right things. He was hungry for more rings and more recognition. Then, he went out and dominated those who lined up against him. He battled through knee and ankle ailments before finally succumbing to the pectoral injury.

He was accused of domestic violence in a civil lawsuit during the middle of the season. He denied the allegations and said he would let the court "clear his name." The issue never was raised again and Brown continued to show up to work every day to keep the grass stains off No. 4's jersey.

By all accounts, he was a good teammate and teacher to fellow offensive linemen Brandon Parker and David Sharpe. Brown was everything Gruden and the Raiders hoped he would be.

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The Raiders' offseason splash spree didn't yield the playoff run they hoped it would. A lot of that has to do with the social-media addict who moonlights as an All-Pro receiver and his break from reality that put the Raiders' offense in an untenable situation to open the season.

That Brown was a dud. A headache that only a lobotomy would be able to cure.

Trent Brown, on the other hand, has been worth every penny.

NFL free agency: How Raiders stack up with Chiefs, AFC West rivals

NFL free agency: How Raiders stack up with Chiefs, AFC West rivals

NFL free agency hit like a tidal wave last week, as some of the league's best players headed for news homes with better paychecks.

The AFC West was at the forefront of the dealing as the Raiders, Los Angles Chargers and Denver Broncos do whatever they can to close the gap between themselves and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

So, as NBC Sports Bay Area Raiders insider Scott Bair and I discussed on the latest edition of The Raiders Talk Podcast, let's grade how each AFC West team did and see where the Silver and Black now stack up against their rivals.


Additions: Marcus Mariota, Jason Witten, Cory Littleton, Eli Apple, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jeff Heath, Carl Nassib, Nelson Agholor, Maliek Collins, Daniel Ross and Nick O'Leary.
Subtractions: Tahir Whitehead, Karl Joseph, Daryl Worley

The Raiders' defense got a lot better with the addition of Littleton and Kwiatkoski, two three-down, play-making linebackers who can cover tight ends. Littleton, 26, is a great athlete, a sure tackler and adept at rushing the passer. Those additions were made to help combat Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce who has been a nightmare in the pattern. The addition of Apple, should he become consistent, gives the Raiders a physical corner to put on the likes of Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins to try and slow down the track team in KC.

Grade: A-minus. The Raiders got loads better on defense. While they whiffed on Byron Jones and Chris Harris, they still made wholesale improvements and the additions at linebacker should allow them to better defend the Chiefs -- in theory.

Denver Broncos

Additions: A.J. Bouye, Jurrell Casey, Graham Glasgow, Melvin Gordon, Nick Vannett, Sam Martin Jeff Driskel
Subtractions: Chris Harris, Joe Flacco, Conor McGovern, Will Parks

I really like what the Broncos did on defense. They traded for Bouye, giving them a No. 1 corner and a healthy Bryce Callahan should help them lessen the blow of losing Harris in the slot. They then somehow got the Titans to trade them Casey, who still is a productive player.

Adding Glasgow is a good addition to what was a suspect offensive line last year. There's still no reason why they should have given Melvin Gordon $8 million a year, when they have Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Gordon looked slow, unathletic and couldn't hold onto the ball last season. Maybe I should try out for the Broncos?

Grade: B. I love the defensive additions and if Bradley Chubb returns healthy this will be one of the better defenses in the NFL. They didn't get another receiver opposite Courtland Sutton and appear to be convinced Drew Lock is the guy. Best of luck.

Kansas City Chiefs

Additions: Mike Remmer, Antonio Hamilton
Subtractions: Kendall Fuller, Emmanuel Ogbah, Stefen Wisniewski

The Chiefs' roster is stacked and they know the bill for Mahomes is coming due soon. They lost one corner in Fuller and the other starting corner Bashaud Breeland currently is a free agent. That's a big issue for a defense that started to come on toward the end of the season. 

But they franchise-tagged Chris Jones and were able to retain Mike Penne and Anthony Sherman. They'll have a decision to make with Sammy Watkins, who currently is the highest-paid player on the roster, but the champs did well to keep most of the group together.

Grade: B-minus. Losing both starting cornerbacks hurts. But they still have Mahomes and the most dynamic offense in the league.

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Los Angeles Chargers

Additions: Chris Harris, Trai Turner, Bryan Bulaga, Linval Joseph and Nick Vigil
Subtractions: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Thomas Davis, Russell Okung, Derek Watt, Travis Benjamin and Adrian Phillips

The Bolts were wheeling and dealing. They waved goodbye to franchise quarterback Philip Rivers and took a swing at Tom Brady. They missed. So they currently are planning to go into the season with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. It's not great. They should give Cam Newton a call whenever they can get him in for a physical, but that could take some time due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Adding Harris and Joseph to a defensive unit that already includes Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Casey Hayward means this could be one of the best units in football if healthy.

They also franchise-tagged Hunter Henry and kept Austin Ekeler around. It's a complete roster except for the most important position in sports.

Grade: B-plus. This has room to go up if they sign Newton or give the keys to Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. Taylor is a solid NFL backup quarterback. But this roster is loaded and that defense has the parts to at least combat the best weapons the Chiefs have. Just have to find a quarterback.

The AFC West is one of the deepest divisions in the NFL.

The three teams chasing the Chiefs each made moves to try and stake claim to the No. 2 spot in the division and a shot at the wild-card spot.

The Raiders did well to bulk up their defense and surely will add more important pieces come draft time. Their offensive line when healthy can hold up against the best rushers in the division. With improved quarterback play from Derek Carr or a relief appearance from a reborn Marcus Mariota, the Raiders have the pieces to be the second-best team in the AFC West. They still are a couple of leagues behind the Chiefs, but that will happen when you are chasing a generational talent who has yet to enter his prime.

I expect the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos to beat up on each other in what looks like a relatively even AFC West after the Chiefs.

The Silver and Black are on the rise. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have a clear plan and are executing it, choosing to play the long game in a multi-year rebuild. They've checked some boxes and have more holes to fill -- most notably wide receiver and cornerback -- but I expect them to compete for eight or nine wins and a wild-card spot if things go right.

NFL Draft 2020: Five bold predictions, including quarterback surprise

NFL Draft 2020: Five bold predictions, including quarterback surprise

The 2020 NFL Draft is a little over a month away, and team needs are coming into focus after a wild free-agency season.

We know Joe Burrow will be a Cincinnati Bengal, but everything is up in the air after that. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is the top player in the draft, but the quarterback position will rule everything.

Teams certainly will try and move up to draft both Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert, but who will it be?

CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are elite wide receiver prospects, but with a loaded class, could they slide as teams pass on them hoping to get a Justin Jefferson or Denzel Mims later on?

And what will the Raiders do? Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock hit a home run with last year's draft and look to do the same this year with five picks in the top 92. But Chucky always can be a wild card.

So it's time to make some bold predictions that just might come true on draft day. (Probably not.)