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Steelers trade Antonio Brown to Raiders: Who won, who lost?

It worked.

Antonio Brown's plan to escape Pittsburgh and get a new contract came to fruition just after midnight early Sunday when the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders agreed to terms on a trade, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The Raiders announced the move Wednesday.

The Steelers will receive a third-round and fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft in exchange for one of the defining receivers of his generation. Brown will also get a reworked contract with significant new money and brand new guarantees.

Brown's new contract is for three years and worth $50.125 million with a maximum value of $54.125 million, according to Rapoport. (That's roughly $12 million more than his old contract called for.) He will receive $30.125 million guaranteed, which is $30.125 million more than he was due to receive from the Steelers. Brown even managed to first break the news of the deal with a fancy photoshop on Instagram.

The trade ends a saga that ramped up in the days before Pittsburgh's season finale, when the Steelers benched Brown for missing practice time. A variety of entertaining interviews and trade rumors followed, with a near-deal to Buffalo on Thursday night being scuttled. Brown ultimately got what he wanted, the Raiders got a future Hall of Famer near the peak of his powers and the Steelers wound up with a lot of dead money on their salary cap.

With the first game of the season still six months away, a deal of this magnitude deserves some scorekeeping. On to the winners and losers:


Mr. Big Chest: It often ends ugly for Hall of Famers with their original team, but the last few months between Antonio Brown and Pittsburgh were particularly gnarly. While Brown's complaints about his quarterback and his coach will hurt his chances for a ceremonial one-day contract to retire a Steeler someday, I suspect Brown doesn't regret a word.

He wanted to play with a different quarterback, he wanted a fresh start and he wanted more money. He'll get all of that and more in Oakland. The Raiders are a lot further away from competing for a championship than the Steelers, but it's not like Brown's legacy was built on postseason success. The Steelers won a total of three playoff games in eight seasons with Brown as a starter, no matter how many passes he caught. His outrageous numbers and ability to get open in any situation is yet another reminder how difficult it is for one player to carry a team to a title. That elusive championship is less likely in Oakland and Las Vegas, but let's face it: It was unlikely regardless.

In the game of getting paid, no receiver is doing better than Brown. He made $33.79 million over the last two years with the Steelers and now gets a huge upgrade in his contract that guarantees an extra $30 million. In a league designed to limit a player's power because of nonguaranteed contracts, Brown and agent Drew Rosenhaus took on one of the NFL's most venerable franchises and won.

This entire episode -- lovingly chronicled on his Instagram Stories -- also raised Brown's profile to a new level. Like many No. 1 receivers before him, Brown wants to dominate attention like he dominates the ball. Business is booming.

Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden: Giving up only a third- and fifth-round pick for a player of Brown's caliber is a steal. While Brown's yardage was down a season ago, the tape and the numbers show he's still at the top of his game. He gets open with ease, draws attention from teammates and still has a quickness in tight areas that rivals any receiver in history. Brown will be 33 years old at the end of this deal, just in time to transition to a Vegas residency for his one-man show.

Gruden replaced Amari Cooper and two mid-round picks with Antonio Brown and a first-rounder. That's a ridiculous upgrade. Cooper is younger, but he's never been close to the same level of player Brown still was in 2018. Mayock, the new Raiders general manager, is paying Brown over the next three years roughly what the Chiefs are paying Sammy Watkins. That's another win.

Raiders receivers to be named later: For now, the Raiders' No. 2 and No. 3 receivers are Jordy Nelson and Marcell Ateman. Like much of the Raiders roster, consider those spots written in pencil.

Las Vegas season ticket holders: Brown adds an undeniable sizzle factor for the Raiders before their move to the desert. The late Al Davis enjoyed players who were liable to make news off the field and Brown should provide plenty of fodder on the strip in 2020, not to mention someone to put on season tickets.

Derek Carr: Sure, the Raiders could still get creative in a bid to draft Kyler Murray. It's more likely, however, that Carr will be throwing to Brown in 2019. The Raiders essentially didn't even have a true No. 2 receiver on the roster after trading Cooper last year, so obtaining one of the game's best No. 1 wideouts is a huge boon.


Kevin Colbert, Steelers general manager: Colbert swore up and down that they were comfortable holding on to Brown unless they received "significant compensation" in return. This deal tells a different story.

Trading Brown for only two mid-round picks -- at a significant cost to the team's salary cap -- shows the Steelers were ready to take the best offer possible. And there weren't many good offers to choose from, possibly because Brown only would accept going to a team ready to pay him. Brown will count as $21 million on Pittsburgh's cap this year, nearly as much as Ben Roethlisberger. Colbert now has to replace Brown's production with far less cap space to do so. Brown certainly deserves his share of blame in how his relationship with the organization deteriorated, but Colbert is the one paying for it. Usually eating anywhere near this much "dead money" only happens when teams have to cut some huge personnel mistake, not the league leader in touchdowns.

AFC West defensive backs: One trade doesn't make the Raiders a contender. But Brown's addition should make the Raiders more watchable in 2019 and a tougher team to gameplan for.

NFL Network "Free Agency Frenzy" producers: Couldn't the Steelers have waited until free agency coverage started Sunday? The Brown trade -- coming after reports of deals for Michael Bennett and Olivier Vernon on Friday --- serves as a reminder that the NFL offseason has changed in shape and scope. Big-time trades are now commonplace and teams don't even consider waiting for free agency to begin making moves. For Brown, this trade was the culmination of a plan months in the making.

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