Soon, the hockey hair of William Karlsson could have company as one of the more recognized sports looks in Las Vegas.
I’m not certain if Antonio Brown will still be rocking the blond mustache when his new team arrives to its palace of a stadium in 2020, but am of this: The Raiders just pulled off a 65,000-seat domed-sized deal.
Funny how things work sometimes. Just this month, Mike Mayock was at the scouting combine in Indianapolis talking about his vision for the Raiders, how best to turn a 4-12 team that has known the playoffs just once in 16 years into a side that might annually compete for the types of games that really matter, ones in January and sometimes a week beyond.
Mayock talked about building through the draft instead of chasing quick-fixes, on creating a long-term culture over collecting talent.
Crazy. He can still achieve all those primary goals, and yet just added a massively talented quick-fix.
In terms of wide receiver, the game’s most talented.
Mayock’s first trade as general manager of the Raiders — as general manager of anyone — is one of the NFL’s biggest in recent memory, plucking Brown from the Steelers for a third- and fifth-round draft pick.
It’s not to suggest Raiders fans, both in Oakland and their soon-to-be new home of Southern Nevada, should begin saving all that spare change for Super Bowl tickets. Hardly. Don’t get all wild and crazy with short-term predictions.
Brown solves one glaring issue.
There is an abundance of them.
Edge rusher. Safety. Linebacker. Tight end. Cornerback.
Yes, even still wide receiver.
Did we mention edge rusher?
One blond ‘stache will not eliminate all that ills the silver and black.
But here’s the thing: Such needs can still be addressed at next month’s draft, because the Raiders were able to keep what are four of the top 35 picks while adding the type of dynamic playmaker quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of what was one of the league’s less-than-exciting offenses last season desperately needed.
The Raiders had a total of four touchdown passes for more than 20 yards in 2018.
Brown had eight such catches alone.
That’s good math for the team that will officially employ him when the 2019 league year begins Wednesday.
Brown is nearly 31 and all sorts of brash. Combative. Forced his way out of Pittsburgh. Didn’t get along with the star quarterback and head coach in the end, although not enough has also been made about what a petulant handful Ben Roethlisberger is at times.
Two divas merely collided in the North Shore of Pittsburgh.
Brown could also implode with the Raiders on those weeks he doesn’t believe Carr is looking his way enough. Brown has been known to skip meetings. You never know what sorts of messages he might deliver via social media.
You can make a fairly strong argument that he quit on his teammates in Pittsburgh.
He did, really.
And yet if you’re the Raiders, you ship a third and fifth for him any day of the week because nothing wins in the the NFL like production, and you just received 837 receptions for 11,207 yards and 74 touchdown catches in nine years with the Steelers.
You just got an NFL-record six straight 100-catch seasons.
He. Doesn’t. Drop. The. Ball.
Brown is good enough that you accept the future Hall of Famer can also be a head-case.
Money to spend
You give him a new three-year contract worth up to $54 million, with $30 million guaranteed, because you entered the offseason with more than $60 million in cap space and it isn’t that awful a financial hit if things don’t work out.
I never buy comparing trades. Each is its own individual mystery to untangle as future seasons play out. The Raiders didn’t trade wide receiver Amari Cooper and two mid-round picks for Brown and a first-rounder. They had no clue Brown would be available when shipping Cooper to Dallas.
Brown won the biggest here, but so too did the Raiders.
This was coach Jon Gruden on Dec. 5 when asked about the player: “He can run every route you dream up. He can run double move. 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 of 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.”
Now, he will coach him.
It doesn’t eliminate all that ills the Raiders.
But they just got much healthier at a really important spot.
Especially if he cuts down on those head-case moments.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.