The never-ending stream of negative Antonio Brown headlines have continued into this week as Brown is filing yet another grievance over this never-ending helmet issue. With Oakland’s regular-season debut less than three weeks away, the wide receiver continues to miss valuable training camp time over this issue and has clearly decided to put himself before the team.
While NFL fans around the country are having a good laugh about Brown’s antics, the mood is a lot more solemn for the Oakland Raiders and their fans. Since the Raiders can’t go back in time and prevent trading for Brown from ever happening, what are their options for getting rid of him if they decide that enough is enough?
Mike Mayock set an ultimatum, but nothing has changed
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock appeared to be at his wit’s end when addressing the media over the weekend:
“Here’s the bottom line: he’s upset about the helmet issue. We have supported that. We appreciate that. But at this point, we’ve pretty much exhausted all avenues of relief. So, from our perspective, it’s time for him to be all-in, or all-out, okay? So, we’re hoping he’s back soon.”
Oakland is extremely ready to move on from Antonio Brown’s helmet fiasco. But unfortunately for them, Brown and his agent are not. Brown’s latest grievance claims that since his most recent attempt to avert the rules with a newer model of his still-uncertified helmet didn’t work, he should get a whole extra year of grace period to look for a new helmet (and he should be allowed to wear his old helmet in the meantime).
This is a ridiculous, frivolous grievance that has virtually zero chance of being passed. It is exactly the type of nonsense the Raiders were hoping was behind them.
What options the Raiders have if they decide to move on
So at what point does the “all-out” portion of Mayock’s rant kick in? Antonio Brown obviously isn’t all-in on being a team-first player. However legitimate his helmet gripe may be, he is the only player in the NFL acting this way over it; Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and other players have all accepted the new rule and moved on.
Can the Raiders move on from Antonio Brown? Their options are limited. A trade would be the best-case scenario from a financial perspective as it would alleviate the Raiders of their salary cap responsibilities on Brown, but who would trade for him given the current state of affairs? Outright releasing him would cost Oakland $30 million in cap space over the next two years, offset by what he’d earn for a different team if he signed elsewhere.
There are disciplinary measures that Oakland can take too, including suspensions and fines. The most extreme measure they could take is sending Brown a five-day letter, which would nullify his contract and make him ineligible to play this season if he didn’t return to camp within five days. Of course, any of these measures would turn an already icy relationship into a far more hostile one.
What is most likely to happen
The Raiders made their bed in trading for a player with Antonio Brown’s history of trouble, and now they probably have to sleep in it. Cutting Brown for his behavior would be the right move from a football perspective, but from a financial perspective, it would be a nightmare; especially with the team’s upcoming move to Las Vegas. Oakland will probably just keep putting up with this and hope that it works out.
This is the sort of situation that destroys locker rooms. Jon Gruden and the Raiders keep bending over backward to let Brown get away with behavior that would get virtually any other player on the team cut. So what does this do for Gruden’s credibility in the locker room when he has to discipline another player for less egregious behavior?
Speaking to that lack of credibility, generational talent Khalil Mack was traded out of town after four years of elite play to save on salary cap space. Where was that concern for salary cap space when Antonio Brown was signed to a new three-year, $50.1 million deal before taking a single snap for the Raiders?
Jon Gruden has nine years left on his 10-year, $100 million contract. How this Antonio Brown situation works out could be what makes or breaks this decade-long stint in Oakland.