Martavis Bryant

West Notes: Seahawks, Thomas, Raiders

After safety Earl Thomas skipped the Seahawks‘ mandatory minicamp, ESPN.com writers huddled up suggest hypothetical trade scenarios for the Pro Bowler. The Cowboys and Chargers, they say, could offer draft picks, while the Patriots’ beat writer suggests a one-for-one deal with right guard Shaq Mason going to Seattle.

If a trade happens, any team acquiring Thomas will have to hammer out an extension with him. Writer Dan Graziano, playing the part of Thomas’ agent, proposes a four-year, $56MM extension starting in 2019, which would make him the league’s highest-paid safety ($14MM/year) in terms of new money. He also suggests $32MM in total cash flow between 2018 and 2019, which would give Thomas ample security as he enters his age-29 season.

While you ponder whether a team would be willing to part with significant compensation and give Thomas that sort of deal, let’s take a look at more items from the West divisions:

Suspension Coming For Martavis Bryant?

The Raiders are concerned that wide receiver Martavis Bryant will be subject to league discipline, sources tell Michael Gehlken of the Review Journal. The belief is that Bryant has run afoul of the league’s substance abuse policy once again, which would put his 2018 season in jeopardy. 

Bryant, 26, missed the entire 2016 season after repeated policy violations. It’s not exactly clear what the issue is this time around, but a failed test or a failure to attend a scheduled exam could result in a lengthy ban for Bryant given his history.

On Day 1 of the draft, the Raiders shipped the No. 10 overall pick to the Cardinals for the No. 15 selection, plus a third-round pick and a fifth-round choice. After selecting UCLA tackle Kolton Miller at No. 15, they traded that newly acquired third-round selection to the Steelers for Bryant.

Bryant’s talent is undeniable, but his off-the-field issues made it a risky move. The Raiders are now bracing themselves for the possibility of not having Bryant in what should have been a highly-motivated year for him. The wide receiver is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is slated to hit free agency after the 2018 season. Instead of balling out, Bryant might have to sit out.

After joining the Raiders, Bryant insisted that he was turning over a new leaf.

Just by handling my business as a man,” Bryant said when asked in April about how he’ll stay on course. “It’s not my first rodeo. I’ve had my difficulties in my past, but I’ve come a long way from that. It’s all about keeping the right resources around me and continuing to stay on the right path. I’m going to make sure I get that done.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Trade Martavis Bryant To Raiders

Martavis Bryant‘s tenure in Pittsburgh has come to an end. The Steelers announced that they have traded the wideout to the Raiders for a third-round pick (No. 79).

The 2014 fourth-round pick had spent his entire four-year career with the organization. His tenure was tumultuous, as he missed the entire 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The 26-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance during his brief career, including a rookie campaign where he caught eight touchdowns. He had another solid season in 2017, catching 50 passes for 603 yards and three touchdowns.

Unfortunately for Bryant, a trade doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see a bigger role. Rather, the wideout will slot in behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson on the Raiders’ depth chart, and he’ll compete with Seth Roberts to be the team’s third wideout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Listening To Martavis Bryant Offers

The Steelers may not be actively shopping Martavis Bryant, but they’re listening to offers on the contract-year wide receiver, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports.

Bryant did not appear to be content with his situation last season, and trade buzz followed the deep threat for weeks leading up to the 2017 deadline. But Pittsburgh kept him in the fold, and as of February, the franchise wasn’t planning on trading him despite fielding calls on him.

Part of the holdup regarding a Bryant trade is the Steelers’ timeline and the teams that might impede them from reaching their goal. The Patriots and Ravens are teams that could need a receiver like Bryant, but Graziano notes the Steelers do not want to ship a talented player to rival franchises. They believe Bryant can help them in 2018, even if he may now be the fourth option in their offense, and will need a good offer to part with him.

Kevin Colbert discussed Bryant with other teams at the Combine, but nothing emerged from those reported discussions. So as of now, the two-time defending AFC North champions are set at wide receiver as they attempt to make good on their Super Bowl window — one largely dependent on the skill-position crew they’ve assembled. But with Pittsburgh needing more help on the defensive side of the ball, it would be understandable if the team listened on Bryant if it meant draft compensation to address bigger issues.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Notes: Bryant, Haden, Vander Esch

Here’s the latest out of Pittsburgh:

  • Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert says the team is not interested in trading wide receiver Martavis Bryant (Twitter link via Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com). Colbert indicated that he received calls on Bryant from other teams based on media reports, but he intends to keep the 26-year-old. Bryant, of course, is one of the more dynamic wideouts in the NFL, but Pittsburgh could conceivably be growing tired of his off-field antics. The Bills, for one, reportedly attempted to trade for Bryant last season, but it sounds as if the former fourth-round pick will return to the Steelers in 2017. He’s under contract for one more year at a base salary of $705K.
  • Veteran cornerback Joe Haden is not in danger of being released despite his relatively high 2018 cap charge, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Haden, who was excellent during his first season in Pittsburgh, is due a $9MM base salary next season and will count for nearly $12MM on the Steelers’ cap. Given that the Steelers are pressed for cap space, Haden had been speculatively mentioned as a candidate for release. Instead, Pittsburgh could approach Haden about reworking his contract down the line, but no machinations of that kind are underway at present.
  • The Steelers have already started “doing their draft due diligence” on Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, Fowler tweets. In some mock drafts, analysts have the Steelers targeting the athletic tackle machine at No. 28 overall. Vander Esch is now expected to come off the board earlier than many project, and has even been compared to 2018 Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. He’s reportedly been running the 40-yard dash in under 4.65 seconds, and could officially beat that number at this week’s combine.

Bills Tried To Trade For Martavis Bryant In 2017

Although the Bills ultimately acquired wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at the 2017 trade deadline, they were also targeting another pass-catcher last season. Buffalo attempted to “get involved” in talks for Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.Martavis Bryant (vertical)

Given their level of interest last year, it’s conceivable the Bills could circle back and try to initiate talks with the Steelers again this year. However, it’s unclear whether Pittsburgh has any intention of trading Bryant, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. While Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com recently reported the Steelers aren’t shopping Bryant, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicated Pittsburgh is listening to offers and will likely discuss the 26-year-old pass-catcher at the combine.

Bryant has caused conflicting reports in the past, especially when it comes to his trade value and availability: last year, for example, Bryant may or may not have requested a Pittsburgh exit. But after the season, Bryant said he wanted to return to the Steelers in 2018.

Buffalo, meanwhile, still boasts one of the NFL’s least inspiring wide receiver units even after picking up Benjamin last season. Benjamin isn’t guaranteed his 2017 salary and could still be released, but if he returns, he’ll join last year’s second-round pick, Zay Jones, as the Bills’ top two wideouts. Buffalo also has five pass-catchers — including Deonte Thompson and Jordan Matthews — scheduled to hit free agency next month.

Last year, Bryant matched a career-high with 50 receptions, although he only managed 12.1 yards per reception (he’d posted 17.3 yards per catch during his first two years with the Steelers). Bryant was above-average in terms of efficiency, however, as Football Outsiders ranked him 37th among 86 qualifiers in DVOA, which measures value on a per-play basis.

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North Rumors: Bryant, Packers, Fisher, Lions

While the Steelers are not believed to be making calls about Martavis Bryant, they are expected to discuss the wide receiver with teams at the Combine, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). Rapoport does, in fact, note the Steelers are open to listening to offers for Bryant but don’t appear to be too aggressive about that at this juncture. However, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes Bryant has expressed desire to be a No. 1 receiver, and that’s not going to happen with likely Hall of Fame candidate Antonio Brown on the Steelers. This helps explain why the sides have not discussed a long-term extension or bridge contract. Bryant is entering his contract year, and the Steelers like their trio of wideouts. But Fowler writes the franchise doesn’t want Bryant causing any problems this season, which would make a trade logical. Fowler writes it would not be a surprise for Bryant to skip offseason workouts to display his frustration with his status.

Here’s the latest from some North teams as Combine itineraries are being finalized.

  • An irregular heartbeat shelved Jake Fisher midway through the season, inducing the Bengals to place their right tackle on the Reserve/NFI list. But the fourth-year blocker has been cleared to return to action, the Bengals announced. A 2015 second-rounder, Fisher is entering a contract year. He started a career-high seven games in 2017 prior to the heart problem sidelining him. The franchise is optimistic Fisher can have a strong season.
  • The Packers‘ strategy at backup quarterback put them in danger in 2013, when Aaron Rodgers‘ first collarbone injury occurred, and burned them last season after Rodgers suffered a similar malady. Multiple scouts who spoke with Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette said the Packers need to prioritize their backup quarterback more appropriately, with one making a notable claim the position was on par with left tackle in terms of importance. While that seems extreme, Rodgers has now missed 16 games between those two seasons. Dougherty mentions Sam Bradford as a possibility while one scout named Matt Moore and Ryan Fitzpatrick as superior options to Brett Hundley. Bradford indicated he plans to play in 2018 despite his injury history, but teams pining for Kirk Cousins may view he or A.J. McCarron as contingency plans as starters.
  • Teams are now free to place their respective franchise tags on players, and Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes this makes the most sense for the Lions. While $17.5MM is steep for a player with Ansah’s inconsistent track record, the former first-rounder is Detroit’s best pass rusher. And on a market light on proven edge help, the Lions might be wise to keep Ansah for at least another season.

Steelers Not Shopping Martavis Bryant

As presently constructed, the Steelers boast a high-powered array of weaponry at wide receiver. And as teams prepare to convene at the Combine, Pittsburgh intends on keeping its status quo at wideout.

The Steelers are not shopping Martavis Bryant, who was involved in trade rumors at the 2017 deadline, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reporting (on Twitter) the team isn’t calling teams about unloading the mercurial pass-catcher while also not fielding offers for him.

Bryant enjoyed an eventful 2017, being reinstated then returning to a team that now had an emerging No. 2 wide receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Antonio Brown‘s previous top sidekick, when available, was involved in rampant trade rumors — ones that may or may not have included him requesting a Pittsburgh exit — and mentioned Smith-Schuster in a social media spat. But after the season, Bryant said he wanted to return to the Steelers in 2018.

One year remains on Bryant’s rookie contract, thanks to it tolling because of his 2016 suspension. While the Steelers aren’t taking calls on him, they are not discussing an extension, either, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). The Steelers became resolute at the October deadline, insisting they weren’t trading Bryant. That stance became clear to Bryant when the Steelers deemed his talent too valuable compared to what would come back to them in a trade, Fowler reports.

Bryant matched his career high with 50 receptions last season, only those came in a career-high 15 games after he’d snared 50 passes (for a career-best 765 yards) in 11 games in 2015. Bryant averaged a career-low 12.3 yards per catch in 2017, a season that saw Brown stay on his stratospheric pace and Smith-Schuster produce the best receiving season in his rookie class. The trio may well have another chance to work together in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Martavis Bryant Wants To Return To Steelers

In a turn from a few months ago, it appears as if Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant wants to return to his team in 2018. Coming off a stunning defeat at the hands of the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional round, the 26-year-old expressed that he has now moved away from trade demand that he made back in October, reports Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

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The former 2014 fourth round pick should’ve been eligible for free agency this offseason, but he’ll remain under contract for one more year after he sat out the entire 2016 season due to suspension. Bryant’s desire to be moved before the trade deadline stemmed from rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s increased role in the offense. However, Bryant expressed doubt that he would want to leave the only team he’s ever known because of the track record that Pittsburgh has for winning.

“What’s changed from mid season? For one, Bryant acknowledges it would be hard to start over and wants to win a Super Bowl here,” tweeted Fowler.

The change of heart should be refreshing for an organization that is about to undertake a rough contract negotiation with free agent running back Le’Veon Bell. But with Ben Roethlisberger saying he’ll return in 2018, the Steelers need all the weapons they can get if they hope to bounce back in the playoffs a year from now. Aside from Bell, Mike Tomlin‘s offense is set to return every starter from this past season.

Bryant was inconsistent for most of this season, catching 50 balls for just over 600 yards and three scores. All of which marked the lowest totals in his three seasons in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Deadline Fallout: Browns, Bills, Pats, Cards

The Browns made “small offers” for ex-Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this season, but weren’t involved in talks for the New England backup before Bill Belichick & Co. traded him to the 49ers, tweets Michael Lombardi of the Ringer. Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson reportedly “pushed hard” for a quarterback addition during the offseason, but the Browns never offered anything close to the (likely early) second-round pick San Francisco sent to the Patriots, per Lombardi. Meanwhile, Belichick may have been reticent to “help” the Browns given his history with the club, sources tell Daniel Jerermiah of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Here’s more fallout from the extremely active trade deadline:

  • Before acquiring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers, the Bills had interest in fellow pass-catcher Martavis Bryant, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). However, the Steelers never seemed to express any serious interest in dealing Bryant despite his off-field question marks. Ultimately, Buffalo shipped third- and seventh-round picks to Carolina for Benjamin, whom Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott are familiar with given the pair’s time with the Panthers.
  • The Patriots made and received calls on offensive tackle Cameron Fleming prior to today’s deadline, tweets Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. New England was known to be “open for business,” so it come as no surprise that the club would entertain offers for Fleming, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Given the dearth of offensive line talent around the league, the Patriots may have believed they could wrangle a pick package for their swing tackle. Fleming, 25, has played only seven snaps in 2017.
  • Every Cardinals defensive back aside from rookie Budda Baker was available today, per Lombardi (Twitter link), who is presumably referring to safeties given that Arizona isn’t going to trade cornerback Patrick Peterson. Veterans Antoine Bethea and Tyvon Branch — each of whom are over the age of 30 — would have made sense as trade candidates, while the Cardinals may have also attempted to rid themselves of Tyrann Mathieu‘s contract, although that’s entirely speculation.