ALAMEDA, Calif -- The Oakland Raiders are giving Trent Brown the richest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history, signaling a sea change for what had been one of the best and most dominant units in the NFL.
It could also spell the end of Kolton Miller’s time at left tackle and the conclusion of Donald Penn’s tenure with the Raiders.
What more can you extrapolate from Brown’s four-year deal worth up to $66 million, with $36.75 million guaranteed, after one successful year at left tackle, protecting Tom Brady’s blind side for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots?
That’s left tackle money for Brown and Miller, the Raiders’ first-round draft pick last season, No. 15 overall, who might be moving to right tackle to take over from third-round pick Brandon Parker, who started the final 12 games there but had his struggles.
Then there’s Penn, a three-time Pro Bowler at left tackle who moved to the right side with the drafting of Miller and has had each of his last two seasons end early due to injury, a Lisfranc to his right foot in 2017 and a groin in Week 4 last season. Penn, who turns 36 on April 27, has a cap number of $7.225 million for 2019, and with his dead money hit of $1.75 million, the Raiders could save $5.475 million in cap space should they cut Penn before June 1, per OverTheCap.com.
The Raiders had already agreed to trade away an All-Pro left guard in Kelechi Osemele, along with a sixth-round draft choice, to the New York Jets for a fifth-rounder, and saved $10.2 million against the cap, so the rebuild in the trenches is in full effect.
The Raiders had $36 million committed to their offensive line in 2018, the fourth most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But that unit underperformed greatly last season; according to ESPN's pass rush metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats, the Raiders had the third-lowest pass-rush win rate in the NFL, sustaining their blocks for at least 2.5 seconds just 41 percent of the time. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was sacked a career-high 51 times after being sacked a combined 36 times in 2016 and 2017.
Enter ... Brown, until last year a career right tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2015.
Miller had a 70 percent pass block win rate as a rookie left tackle, the fourth-worst such rate among tackles with at least 300 pass blocks, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Brown, meanwhile, had a PBWR of 82 percent.
Could the Raiders simply put him on the right side? After all, Oakland has doled out huge left-tackle-type deals to the likes of Osemele and Austin Howard in the past, and they played left guard and right tackle, respectively.
Then there’s the gaping hole left by Osemele. Might the Raiders simply move right guard Gabe Jackson, who was called a “foundation piece” by Raiders owner Mark Davis, back to left guard and insert the recently re-signed Denzelle Good at right guard? What about re-signing versatile Jon Feliciano, who is an unrestricted free agent and started at left guard when Osemele was hurt before going on injured reserve himself late in the season and was also Rodney Hudson’s backup at center?
How does this grab you as a potential, and massive, Raiders O-line in 2019 -- LT Brown (6-foot-8, 380 pounds), LG Jackson (6-3, 335 pounds), C Hudson (6-2, 300 pounds), RG Good (6-5, 345 pounds), RT Miller (6-8, 309 pounds)?
The power scheme employed by Oakland in 2016 has been all but scrapped by O-line coach Tom Cable, Brown, the largest man in the NFL, fits Cable’s zone-blocking scheme.
Pro Football Focus had Brown giving up three sacks and 39 pressures in 744 pass-blocking snaps in the regular season for the Patriots. In the playoffs, Brown did not surrender a sack among four pressures in 127 pass-blocking snaps.
The fear, then, is that Brown was merely a byproduct of the Patriots’ success. The Raiders are more than willing to pay to find out.