The Raiders seem to be one step from imploding with others ready to pick up the pieces. It's a perfect time for another franchise to swoop in and capitalize.
"Things are tense," a member of the organization told The MMQB's Jenny Vrentas and Greg Bishop. "Right or wrong, the results will show on the field."
The Patriots built their reputation on outsmarting the competition. Pursuing Brown after he was released Saturday morning wouldn't be the most intelligent course of action, though.
Normally, a player of Brown's prowess at a severely discounted price would be an obvious target for Belichick and Co. The Patriots, however, should have cause for concern.
His value comes down to how engaged he is regarding on-field activities and the perceptions of him as a teammate. Either of those points has the power to sway an organization's view of the NFL's most prolific receiver over the last six seasons.
The allure of his talent can't be denied. The Raiders already fell prey. The Patriots have previously made plays for Randy Moss and Josh Gordon. The question is who is willing to back Brown after his recent actions?
The Raiders' approach is so scatterbrained that no one can be sure who was at fault.
On Friday, the Raiders rallied around their top receiver. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Brown issued "an emotional apology" after Wednesday's heated exchange with Mayock. The mea culpa featured the support of the team's captains.
"Antonio's back today," Gruden told reporters. "We're really excited about that. Ready to move on. He's had a lot of, obviously, time to think about things. We're happy to have him back, and I know Raider Nation is excited about that too."
"No way I play after they took that and made my contract week to week," Brown added.
The team obliged. As a vested veteran, he entered free agency.
Gruden previously said Brown would play Monday against the Denver Broncos, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The situation revealed the Raiders' true hierarchy: Mayock is nothing more than a figurehead because Gruden gets what he wants.
"I'm emotional about it," the coach said Thursday, per Anderson. "I hope you understand why. I think a lot of this guy. I think Antonio is a great receiver, and deep down I think he's a really good guy. So, I'm frustrated. I'm not going to say anything more about it. Hope it all works out."
Gruden's approval isn't limitless, and no one within the Raiders' walls quite understands his team-building plan.
"Only one person knows the motivation behind it all," another member of the organization said of Gruden to Vrentas and Bishop.
No one can blame Gruden for being enamored with Brown the football player. After all, he's posted six straight seasons with 100-plus receptions and 1,200-plus yards. He set a Pittsburgh Steelers record last year with 15 touchdown receptions. He is lightning-quick and one of the very best in the game at creating separation, even at 31 years old.
Yet Pittsburgh shipped him to Oakland for a bag of peanuts and an extra practice ball (OK, the Raiders surrendered third- and fifth-round selections in this year's draft).
"I've never seen a guy transform so quickly, from good dude to a dude I didn't recognize," a Steelers player told Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman. "He's someone I still admire. He was trying to change the way players are perceived. He just went about it the wrong way."
Then, the Raiders signed Brown to a three-year, $50.1 million contract extension, including $30.1 million in guarantees, but it cost them only a $1 million cap hit. The MMQB's Albert Breer reported Brown's contract stated, "If at any time Player does not report to Club; does not practice or play with Club; leaves Club w/o prior written approval ... then player shall be in default and the Skill, Injury and Cap guarantee shall be null and void."
The Patriots might come into play considering the continued uncertainty surrounding Brown. New England has a history of taking chances on castoffs such as Moss, Gordon, Corey Dillon, Chad Johnson, Albert Haynesworth and Danny Shelton. Rob Gronkowski's retirement left a rather large void in the mismatch department, too. And the Pats have major question marks at wide receiver.
Julian Edelman remains Tom Brady's favorite target, but no other receiver on the roster is reliable. Josh Gordon has played only 22 games since 2014 because of suspensions. Demaryius Thomas is still working his way back from last year's Achilles tendon tear. Phillip Dorsett II has never caught more than 33 passes in a season. Matthew Slater is a special teams ace. First-round draft pick N'Keal Harry is on injured reserve. Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski are undrafted free agents.
That corps doesn't inspire much confidence. Even so, the idea that the Patriots could sign Brown to boost their Super Bowl chances is off-base. Brown wouldn't be the right fit in the locker room and would never buy in to "the Patriot way."
"Brown had a penchant for running on his own timetable, being late for meetings or other functions," Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported regarding Brown's time in Pittsburgh. "... Brown was often glued to his phone in the team's facility, although to be fair, heavy cellphone use and an obsession with social media is a complaint that teams have more often than in [years] past."
Belichick can deal with personality quirks; he won't suffer those who don't properly prepare or who don't put the team first. A disruptive player can be dealt with if the individual is worth the organization's time. The Patriots don't need Brown to hoist another Lombardi Trophy and enjoy a little bit of the bubbly.
There's certainly more to come with Brown now available to any team. Stay tuned.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.