Our long national nightmare appears to be over after the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders reportedly struck a deal late Saturday evening to send Antonio Brown to the Black Hole (no, not Buffalo) in exchange for third- and fifth-round draft picks.
Brown, one of the most productive receivers in NFL history, who led the league in receiving touchdowns last season despite a devolving relationship with his quarterback and bailing on his team in a must-win Week 17, will collect $30 million guaranteed and nearly $20 million in new money as part of his restructured contract from the Raiders.
We guess for now, then, Brown can be called a "winner" in this deal — though it says here in the end there will be no winners. But the way he made the Steelers meet his demands by increasing his toxicity level over the past year truly is astounding. Pittsburgh ultimately will carry a $21 million cap charge next season — believed to be the largest in a single season in NFL history — while Brown plays in Oakland.
It must be noted, though, that also in the end, of the 32 NFL teams, only the one led by Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock were willing to promise $30 million to Brown. His erratic behavior, admissions that he "doesn't need football" and threats to walk away ahead of his age-31 campaign trumped for every other team the allure of adding a six-time All Pro and the only receiver ever with six consecutive 100-catch, 1,200-yard campaigns.
The Raiders still haven't gotten younger, but they got Derek Carr (we think?) a short-term upgrade from Amari Cooper, albeit one who could bring loads more volatility to Gruden's locker room.
And the Steelers got very little in return for dealing Brown — and don't give us that they spent a sixth-rounder on him 10 years ago talk. The Steelers' failure was in the final contract extension, after which everything seemed almost immediately different with their star receiver.
We'll have time to break down the football angles soon, but that's the bottom line on the conclusion of this saga: the Steelers and Raiders both caved. It figures to hurt Pittsburgh more now but certainly could backfire on Oakland sooner than later, unless Brown is a good soldier in a locker room that suddenly has a game-changing receiver but few other established difference makers to spur a quick turnaround.