How the Raiders Should Navigate Free Agency After Antonio Brown Trade

The Raiders traded for receiver Antonio Brown and then gave him a fat raise, to the tune of $50 million over three seasons with $30 million.

The four-time first-team All-Pro was technically acquired from Pittsburgh, but he doubles as a major splash signing.

That doesn't mean he'll be the only one despite a decision to sign fewer, more impactful free agents after buying in bulk this time last year.

Uncertainty surrounding Brown's contract structure prevents us from knowing how much cap space the Raiders have to start Monday morning's open negotiating window and Wednesday's formal start of free agency – the Brown deal won't become official until Wednesday – but they have plenty to spend should they so choose. But… the Raiders aren't going to throw money at every problem looking for a quick fix.

They could splurge on running back Le'Veon Bell, another elite talent and Pittsburgh malcontent who sat out the entire 2018 season over a contract impasse. Sources say the interest is real, but it's uncertain how far they'll go into what should be a strong market for the do-everything back.

NFL Network reports that the Raiders are interested in former 49ers and Patriots offensive lineman Trent Brown, who would instantly solve issues at right tackle. The Raiders seem set on solving that problem spot in free agency, either with a top talent or someone to compete with 2018 third-round pick Brandon Parker. They'll need to address guard at some point this offseason after trading Kelechi Osemele to the New York Jets.

Their list of needs is long, with only one receiver spot checked. The Raiders will look for more receiver help despite adding Antonio Brown, and seem ready for the realistic possibility Jared Cook finds a new employer.

The Raiders hung on to all four of their NFL draft picks in the top 35 overall during the Antonio Brown deal, a coup in its own right that showed great discipline and allowed the Raiders to retain assets required for a full scale rebuild.

While we could generally say the draft will focus on defense early, with offensive issues addressed in free agency, let's use general manager Mike Mayock's advice to Raiders staff as a guide.

"We have so many needs right now that we can't just approach one," Mayock said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I keep talking to our salary cap people and coaches and personnel people and, it sounds weird, but I keep saying that we have to be nimble. We have to be nimble throughout the whole process. We have so many needs. We have offensive line needs and cornerback needs and needs everywhere. It all depends on who is available, when they're available and whether we're talking free agency or NFL draft."

The Raiders do have direction entering the free-agent signing period of the most important offseason in recent memory – that's dramatic, yet true -- and want to skew younger. There will be some signing to help bridge gaps and get through 2019, but not the bigger fish reeled in this month.

"We have some holes we need to fill. I'd much rather have some young guys who can come in, compete, go to (Las Vegas with us in 2020) and be part of what we're doing moving forward as opposed to the 35-year old stopgaps. I'm not saying there's not a fit for some one-year guys because there are, but I would think we'd much rather do it with some younger guys to be part of who we are down the road."

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