Inside the Antonio Brown trade

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Mike Mayock hadn’t rested since New 12 months’s Eve, the day he formally transitioned from make-believe tv normal supervisor to Oakland Raiders GM.

The longtime NFL Community draft analyst spent a lot time contained in the Raiders’ compound breaking down movie and studying the job that coach Jon Gruden — the infamous workaholic — thought Mayock wanted a break.

So Gruden, on the behest of Raiders proprietor Mark Davis, invited his GM and their respective vital others to Las Vegas for some relative R&R the weekend of March eight. In spite of everything, the brand new league 12 months and free company can be beginning the next Wednesday.

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Besides their largest job but awaited them as quickly as they touched down. Antonio Brown, the sport’s greatest large receiver, had undergone a tumultuous two months with the Pittsburgh Steelers and wished out. He was accessible for commerce and able to negotiate completely with Oakland. And so over the course of the subsequent two days, Mayock spent his Vegas getaway on the telephone negotiating with Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who was at Brown’s house in Miami.

“As a substitute of getting a pleasant double date, we dated [agent Drew] Rosenhaus and Antonio Brown,” Gruden mentioned.

The Brown saga despatched shock waves by means of the NFL due to the star energy concerned. Hardly ever is a participant of Brown’s caliber accessible for commerce, particularly with three years left on his contract.

And the commerce companions had been at reverse ends of the spectrum with the participant. Whereas one NFL regime was imagining the chances with a brand new offensive weapon, one other was in divorce proceedings with a participant who disparaged them publicly, bizarrely dyed his mustache blonde and demanded more cash after six straight 100-catch seasons.

Brown’s commerce market did not promise a bevy of excessive picks. Even the Raiders, who coveted the moment offense Brown offered, had been reluctant to half with vital capital.

Each side made the perfect of an untenable scenario, with Oakland giving up third- and fifth-round picks in change for Brown, who was re-signed to a three-year contract for $50.125 million with $30.125 million in assured cash and $four million in incentives.

“I am not conscious of a man with three years left on his contract to get $11 million of recent, actual cash and having one other $30 million in ensures, absolutely assured,” mentioned Rosenhaus. “I might by no means seen that earlier than with three years left and never including years. … We have all seen what number of guys are lower one 12 months right into a long-term deal. It has been form of a one-way system. On this explicit occasion, you had a participant who mentioned, ‘This is not a great scenario for me.’ For guys across the league, this can be a optimistic improvement for gamers. And so they have Antonio Brown to thank for it.”

The deal may need been made in Vegas, however over two-plus months it made its method from Florida to Alabama to Buffalo.

Antonio Brown compelled his method out of Pittsburgh, and obtained new assured cash even with three years remaining on his contract. Don Wright/AP Picture

Greatest to make ‘clear break’

Whereas Steelers gamers had been cleansing out their lockers the day after the season ended with a 9-6-1 file, Brown already was desirous about the place to retailer his cleats in 2019.

Rosenhaus first referred to as Steelers normal supervisor Kevin Colbert about Brown’s want to be traded on Dec. 31, the day after the 2018 common season concluded, Rosenhaus advised ESPN. Brown wasn’t within the constructing that day, and gamers had been making an attempt to make sense of an exhausting Week 17 through which Brown was not current for a day of labor.

Brown’s relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin had deteriorated. Within the last week, Brown believed he was made a scapegoat for the crew’s issues and stayed true to his story that Tomlin despatched him house due to his harm.

“It simply did not appear lifelike it will proceed in a wholesome method transferring ahead,” Rosenhaus mentioned. “I reached out to Kevin and mentioned there would not appear to be a productive resolution outdoors of a commerce. Nobody wished to hurry right into a hasty conclusion. The sensation was, if there is a technique to salvage this, let’s discover this. It actually wasn’t one thing I do not assume the crew wished to do out of the gate. Nevertheless it grew to become obvious to the membership it was in everybody’s greatest curiosity to get a clear break.”

Technically, this wasn’t a proper commerce request. Privately, it was time to entertain life with out Brown. By mid-January, Pittsburgh believed Brown, who will flip 31 in July, would have at the very least an honest commerce market, probably garnering a first-round decide. A number of league sources on the time forecast a “small however robust” market, which performed out over the subsequent two months.

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Colbert met with Rosenhaus twice in January — on the East-West Shrine Recreation on Jan. 19 in Florida and the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Alabama — to debate Brown’s future. By that time, the Steelers had been ready for something however hadn’t begun purchasing Brown in earnest.

First, the Steelers — most notably, crew president Artwork Rooney II — wished to listen to from Brown immediately. Corralling everybody concerned for a gathering took time, with a number of scheduling “misfires,” Rosenhaus mentioned. They settled on Feb. 19 on the West Palm Seaside Airport. They arrived in separate vehicles, shook arms throughout from the terminal and headed to a gathering room.

“As soon as all of us obtained collectively … actually the summation of it was we’re all disenchanted that we’re at this level,” Colbert mentioned. “The purpose we made to Antonio was, ‘Look we love you as a participant, we thanks for what you probably did for us for the previous 9 years. I’m disenchanted we did not get you a Tremendous Bowl and I nonetheless assume you’re a Corridor of Fame candidate.'”

Brown’s weird conduct on social media had been off-putting for the franchise. He grew the mustache, posted a spotlight video saying goodbye to Pittsburgh earlier than the crew even agreed to commerce him and criticized Tomlin and Roethlisberger publicly.

However the crew remained affected person, figuring the in-person assembly would curb these points.

Brown highlighted to Rooney his “spectacular” 9 years in Pittsburgh and requested they take an image collectively.

“There was at all times a way of doing issues a proper method,” Rosenhaus mentioned. “By no means at any level was there unhealthy blood. And his commentary died down after that, out of respect for that assembly.”

All events understood Brown can be a Steeler in 2019 if a commerce associate could not be discovered, Rosenhaus mentioned. However they did not focus on contingencies due to confidence a deal would materialize.

Antonio Brown leaves Pittsburgh with six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports activities

Brown and Rosenhaus outlined standards for the commerce: A top quality quarterback, a successful group which might give Brown a brand new contract and a head coach with a sound offensive background and philosophy.

That new contract was a hurdle for a lot of groups. Brown had deemed himself “Mr. Large Chest,” and that meant he wished new ensures on his remaining three years (at roughly $39 million) with Pittsburgh.

The New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans had respectable curiosity at factors in the course of the course of, in response to a supply. The New England Patriots had been believed to have curiosity, however the Steelers had no plans to ship an All-Professional to a perennial AFC favourite.

The idea was at the very least one crew was keen to commerce a first-round decide if the contract hadn’t been an element, a supply mentioned.

The Steelers granted Rosenhaus clearance to talk with the Buffalo Payments early within the week of March four. That meant the Steelers felt snug with draft compensation and it was time for Brown to get entangled.

Rosenhaus spoke with normal supervisor Brandon Beane on March 5, and Beane made clear then he would tweak Brown’s remaining deal however would not redo it. That was a nonstarter for Brown, so each events agreed it would not work and by no means revisited.

Within the early hours of March eight, NFL Community reported the Payments had been “closing in” on a deal for Brown, who shortly referred to as any take care of Buffalo “pretend information” on social media. Rosenhaus wakened in the midst of the evening to the story and labored to make clear, realizing a deal was not in place.

“I by no means spent a number of time with the Payments on this,” mentioned Rosenhaus, who confused Brown’s difficulty with Buffalo was solely contract-related, not an unwillingness to play there. “We had been by no means shut.”

That was too unhealthy for the Steelers, who felt strongly about Buffalo’s bundle, in response to a supply. Many across the league believed a part of the bundle included swapping Pittsburgh’s No. 20 total decide for Buffalo’s No. 9 decide.

By March eight, the Steelers did not have an amazing favourite and had been merely on the lookout for the perfect bundle.

Raiders get in late

Regardless of being linked to Brown since he first went in the marketplace, the Raiders, who’ve three first-round draft picks and 4 picks within the first 35 picks, weren’t in on him till a lot later within the sport.

Oakland made earnest efforts to land Brown on the afternoon of March eight, because the Steelers had granted Rosenhaus permission to talk with the crew.

“When AB got here into the image, it wasn’t one thing that we essentially deliberate for,” Mayock mentioned. “I believed any person would give [Pittsburgh] a first-round decide, and we weren’t keen to surrender considered one of our three. So when the Buffalo deal fell by means of and, rapidly, we had a possibility to make a play for him, Jon and I had been 100 % in settlement that, on the proper worth, we needed to go do it. He is a game-changer. He is considered one of two or three offensive gamers within the league it’s important to sport plan for each week, speaking about non-quarterbacks. So we felt prefer it was one thing we needed to do.”

Brown believes he has just a few prime years left and is raring to show he is not a Steelers creation.

However Rosenhaus and Oakland had been nonetheless making an attempt to bridge the cash divide by the night of March eight. Rosenhaus left Brown’s house in Miami that evening considering a deal could be off fully and new groups would want to emerge. Rosenhaus declined specifics on the precise sticking level with Oakland, however he acknowledged each side weren’t “on the identical web page” on the 2 key parts of the deal: new cash and total ensures.

On March 9, Rosenhaus spoke with Colbert, who inspired making an attempt once more with Oakland, in response to a supply. So Rosenhaus reconnected with Mayock within the night for extra fruitful talks. Rosenhaus labored from Brown’s giant eating room desk whereas the participant waited for the inexperienced mild to tweet out a photoshopped image in a Raiders uniform.

Shortly after midnight on March 10, Brown posted the picture to #raidernation after each side agreed to a deal: the Steelers acquired Oakland’s 66th and 141st picks within the 2019 NFL draft in change for Brown.

“Kevin Colbert from Pittsburgh did an important job in getting this factor shut,” Mayock mentioned. “Drew Rosenhaus was superb as a result of there have been some occasions the place I wasn’t positive if we had been going to get there or not. Anytime you could have a high-profile negotiation like this, there are factors to be made by each side. You need to get by means of some issues. Drew did an important job protecting this factor alive.”

In fact, the Raiders needed to ask about Brown’s ugly departure from Pittsburgh. They got here away happy.

“I did do a reasonably deep dive with among the Pittsburgh individuals I do know,” Mayock mentioned. “However the level is, for almost all of his profession, may you criticize him for wanting the soccer extra? Positive. However inform me an important large receiver that does not need the ball, proper? So, he is obtained a few of that in him. However on the finish of the day, he was a optimistic drive in that constructing for lots of years. No matter occurred final 12 months, occurred.

“The best way I have a look at it’s the reverse — I have a look at it like … he is a bit pissed off, he is obtained one thing to show [and] I feel he’ll come out and show it in Oakland subsequent 12 months and we will be the beneficiaries.”

The connection between Gruden and Brown was instantaneous. Mayock arrived to work and was delighted to see the 2 watching 400 clips of Brown’s play in Gruden’s workplace like “little children within the laboratory” whereas Brown was on the town to signal his deal.

Brown, although, didn’t see himself as a trailblazer in his introductory media convention on March 13, hours after the league 12 months started.

“I am not right here to promote all of the traits of what’s this or what’s that,” Brown advised ESPN that day. “My actions will communicate louder. I am right here with a number of strain. Plenty of optimism. I am simply embracing all of it. Clearly, I do know there’s a number of work to be achieved. At the moment is simply the primary day of getting began. I am excited concerning the course of. We have got a number of issues to point out, a number of issues to do. At the moment is simply the primary day of getting these issues began.”

A ‘disappointing’ breakup

Tomlin performed a pivotal position in deciding on Brown within the sixth spherical of the 2010 draft, spent 9 years watching his profession explode and managed the participant’s eccentricities virtually each day.

However ultimately, Tomlin summarized the breakup as merely “disappointing” and “unlucky” earlier than leaning on a chilly NFL actuality.

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Ryan Clark goes off on Antonio Brown after his posts attacking JuJu Smith-Schuster saying that it’s uncalled for.

“Change is part of our enterprise and we’re snug with the expertise we’ve and our plan so as to add to that expertise and develop that expertise,” Tomlin mentioned.

The Steelers have extra probabilities to just do that. They did not get the first-round decide they coveted early within the course of, however getting Oakland’s 66th decide was necessary as a result of it was mainly a late-second-round decide. Plus, the crew — contemporary off a year-long headache over Le’Veon Bell’s holdout — wished to maneuver on from one other disgruntled participant.

Colbert is not involved with how Brown’s conduct may need affected the commerce market.

“I can not estimate what their challenges had been,” Colbert mentioned. “We had been excited to get a 3rd and a fifth, particularly as excessive as these picks are in these respective rounds. As I said, now we’ve 4 picks within the prime 83, and 10 picks within the prime 219, so we’re choosing as soon as out of each 21 picks, so we’re in significantly better form draft-wise than we had been previous to that commerce. … We discovered one thing that we had been enthusiastic about and we made the deal with out hesitation.”

Regardless of averaging 1,500-plus receiving yards a season since 2013, Brown was keen to throw away his reference to Roethlisberger in change for a Las Vegas star flip for the Raiders’ 2020 relocation.

The injuries are uncooked for Steelers followers. Years from now, maybe therapeutic can start.

“He is enthusiastic about being with the Raiders, however that will not take away from the overwhelmingly optimistic expertise he had in Pittsburgh throughout 9 years with everybody affiliated with the crew,” Rosenhaus mentioned. “He needs to keep up a relationship with the Steelers as among the finest to ever placed on the uniform.”

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