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And the Torch Moves Up the Rust Belt

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Given how pro leagues have gotten better and better at arbitraging every procedural advantage — a subject we’ll return to imminently — it’s always nice to see a player win one. So I love the fact that the Steelers are going to give up $21.1M in cap space so a first-ballot Hall of Fame wideout can play for someone else. That Jon Gruden did the fleecing (the Raider have 4 to-35 picks in the 2019 draft and gave up none of them) is even better:

I normally consider these grades from the team’s perspective, in part because it’s usually easier to understand how a team functions and thinks over the course of dozens of acquisitions and releases than it is to think about things from the perspective of a player who might sign only one or two deals over the course of his career. Every player in the NFL is vastly underpaid in a vacuum, but in the context of a league with a salary cap, the money matters.

From my perspective, it sure looks like Antonio Brown battled to get what he wanted and succeeded. He wanted to call out Roethlisberger for disrespect and did so publicly, sparking an embarrassing comment from general manager Kevin Colbert about the Steelers having 52 kids under Roethlisberger. Brown wanted guaranteed money and a raise from an organization that regarded that as anathema, and he played his cards right and ended up getting exactly that from another organization. He wanted to be respected and appreciated for his work.

No, his chances of winning a Super Bowl aren’t as high as they were a month ago. After going underpaid for the better part of a decade, though, you can understand why Brown would want to take advantage of what will probably be his last chance to get top-wideout money. The Steelers will still be good on offense in 2019, but without their star receiver and with Bell following him out the door, they might have cost themselves one last chance to win a Super Bowl with Roethlisberger at the helm.

Ah yes, this probably closes the window for Roethisberger, and it certainly couldn’t happen to a bigger asshole.

It gets better:

If you thought the Antonio Brown trade was a barn-burner, there’s now another elite receiver moving cities via trade.

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Giants have decided to move on from Beckham, and they’ll receive Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2019 (the 17th overall pick), as well as the Browns’ second third-round pick this year, and safety Jabrill Peppers.

That’s a big haul for the Giants as they enter what could be a multi-year rebuilding mode, but what it does for the Browns could be franchise-changing. Cleveland had already signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and traded guard Kevin Zeitler to the Giants for the services of defensive end Olivier Vernon, so the defense is stout. But to give Baker Mayfield a target of Beckham’s talent along with all the other developing weapons in Freddie Kitchens’ offense? This is the kind of move that could propel the Browns to the top of the AFC North in an instant.

Last year, Jarvis Landry led the Browns with 81 catches on 149 targets for 976 yards and four touchdowns. He’s an excellent short-to-intermediate receiver, but as a deep guy, he’s somewhat limited. Adding Beckham, who commands No. 1 receiver coverage in every instance, will free things up for Landry and the rest of Mayfield’s receivers, giving the second-year quarterback a fully functional passing game to rival any in the league.

So the Giants, making the ultimate win-now play of overpaying for a RB in the draft, will apparently be bringing back Joe Flacco East for another year without his top wideout. I’m sure that will work out great, especially given the critical uptick in Endzone Celebration Modesty.

Anyway, the AFC North is Cleveland’s now baby!

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