First, Jordy Nelson. Now Martavis Bryant. The Raiders are pulling in wide receivers – who come with baggage -- from around the league to help add some spark to Oakland’s passing attack in 2018.
First came Nelson, the former Packers standout who’s about to turn 33 and is coming off his least-productive NFL season in years. Now the former Steeler Bryant has been added to the roster in a draft-day trade this past Thursday for a third-round pick.
Bryant, 26, has exceptional speed and is a big target at 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, a former fourth-round pick from Clemson (in 2014) who last season had 50 catches in 15 games for 603 yards and three touchdowns. Over three seasons and 36 games, Bryant has 126 catches for 1,917 yards (a 15.2-yard average per reception) and 17 TDs.
But Bryant had his troubles with the Steelers, twice being suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the second of which was for the entire 2016 season (after a four-game suspension for his first offense). So, if he were to have another violation, the Raiders would lose him for a long while.
But general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jon Gruden love the dynamic quality he brings to the passing game – the ability to stretch the field and give quarterback Derek Carr another wide receiver with big-play potential, alongside Amari Cooper and Nelson.
“You get a guy his size, and the way he ran, he was going to be a threat, and we’re excited to add him to our roster right now,” said McKenzie the day after Bryant was acquired. “I’m sure he’s going to elevate our offense and he’s going to elevate this team.”
Bryant told reporters he’s eager to get a “clean slate” with Oakland.
“It shows they kept the faith in me and also that I believe in myself,” Bryant said, according to Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “Things aren’t always easy. You’ve got to keep fighting, keep working. I’m going to be all right. I’m going to come in and work every day and prepare and just go out and handle my business as a man.”
McKenzie said the opportunity to bring in a young, athletic receiver who’s shown he can be a game-breaker was a no-brainer.
“He’s ideal,” said McKenzie. “What you’re looking for in a receiver. He’s big, fast and makes plays. He can be a dynamic receiver for Derek.”
The analytic website Pro Football Focus counted Bryant’s trade as a win for both the Raiders and Bryant, saying he immediately becomes Carr’s best “deep-ball option” and noting that Cooper and Nelson are better suited to slot roles.
Wrote PFF: “If the Raiders are going to throw it deep, Bryant should be the guy.”