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.