Steelers agree to deal AB to Raiders

The Steelers and Raiders have reached a verbal agreement for Antonio Brown to be traded to Oakland in exchange for a third- and fifth-round pick, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Brown will receive a new three-year deal worth up to $54.125 million from the Raiders, with $30.125 million guaranteed, the source said. He previously had three years and $38.9 million left on his contract with the Steelers, with none of the money guaranteed.

By trading Brown, the Steelers will be forced to swallow $21.12 million in dead money against their salary cap, according to a source. It’s thought to be the largest dead-money charge in NFL history.

Brown first indicated on his Instagram account late Saturday night that he was heading to Oakland.

Trades are not official until the new league year begins Wednesday.

For the Raiders, the addition of Brown provides an explosive deep threat for quarterback Derek Carr that coach Jon Gruden and the rebuilding team desperately need.

  • In 2018, Brown had eight touchdown receptions on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield, most in the NFL. The Raiders as a team had four such touchdowns all of last season.

  • In 2018, Brown dropped only one pass in 170 targets. The Raiders as a team had 22 drops, tied for ninth most in the league.

  • In 2018, Brown’s average target was thrown 11.2 yards downfield. The Raiders averaged 6.87 air yards per target, the second lowest mark in the league behind the Lions (6.85).

The Raiders, who have had one winning season and one playoff appearance since the 2002 season, had the 18th-ranked passing game in the NFL last season, averaging 234.4 yards, and their 19 receiving touchdowns were tied for 24th. Jordy Nelson led Oakland receivers last season with 63 receptions for 739 yards and three TDs.

Gruden raved about Brown before the Steelers visited Oakland in December. Brown was limited to a season-low 35 receiving yards, on five catches, by Gareon Conley in the Raiders’ 24-21 victory.

“He can run every route you dream up,” Gruden said of Brown at the time. “I say that about other receivers, but he can run double moves, he can run by you, he can run crossing routes, he’s very good after the catch. What’s the greatest thing about this man? I’ve told all our receivers, if you get a chance to watch him practice, you’ll see what unlocks the greatness in him.

“He’s the hardest working man, I think, in football. Hardest working player I’ve ever seen practice. I’ve seen Jerry Rice, I’ve seen a lot of good ones, but I put Antonio Brown at the top. If there are any young wideouts out there, I’d go watch him practice. You figure out yourself why he’s such a good player.”

Carr and Brown have previously spoken highly of each other.

Brown lauded Carr at the Pro Bowl in January 2018, when both players represented the AFC.

“He’s special, man,” Brown said of Carr at the time. “It’s been an honor catching the ball from him. He’s a great young quarterback, young champion, and [has] all the fundamentals to be one of the greatest.”

Carr said at a charity event earlier this month that Brown, despite his messy exit from Pittsburgh, would be welcomed by Raiders players.

“It would be great to add a guy like that to your team, talent like that,” Carr said, according to the Fresno Bee. “I don’t know what it’s going to cost. The contract stuff starts getting in the way and they got to figure out numbers and all that kind of stuff. I don’t really like the business side of football. but I just like adding good players to our football team.

“If it works out in the business side, I know the locker room will be arms wide open to accepting Antonio.”

Brown recorded Hall of Fame-type production in Pittsburgh with 834 receptions, 11,207 yards and 74 touchdown catches in nine years, including an NFL-record six consecutive 100-catch seasons. But a frayed relationship between the player and team overshadowed the gaudy numbers, and a divorce became inevitable.

When the Steelers began entertaining a trade in January, they believed Brown’s market would be strong, with one NFL general manager saying the Steelers would eye a first-round pick in any deal.

The market was strong enough that the team could deal Brown, who turns 31 in July, before free agency started. The Steelers marked Friday as an artificial deadline for a trade after several teams — including the Raiders, Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans, according to Schefter — showed interest during the NFL scouting combine.

Without Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster will be Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiver and the focal point of the offense in 2019. He recorded a team-high 111 catches and earned his first Pro Bowl bid last season. The depth chart behind him, however, isn’t so clear-cut.

James Washington, a second-round pick in 2018, has obvious talent but struggled to find a rhythm as a rookie, though he did encourage with a pair of 60-plus-yard performances late in the year. Slot receiver Ryan Switzer, who made an impact with 36 catches for 253 yards in his first season in Pittsburgh, is the only other core veteran wideout under contract. Three reserves — Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter and Eli Rogers — are unrestricted free agents.

The Steelers are among the league’s most successful teams at identifying receiver talent in the draft and could select a Day 2 wideout for the second consecutive year to help replace Brown. They can also expand the passing game duties of tight end Vance McDonald and running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.

The Raiders are coming off a 4-12 campaign, and don’t officially have a home for next season. While a prospective agreement to keep them at the Oakland Coliseum is “95 percent” done, a Coliseum executive said last week that nothing is certain.

The Silver and Black will move to Las Vegas in 2020, provided the new stadium there is complete.

Information from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Paul Gutierrez was used in this report.

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