Despite not playing an NFL game since 2018, Martavis Bryant has secured another gig. Recently reinstated, the veteran wide receiver has a deal in place with the Cowboys, according to The Athletic NBA reporter Shams Charandia.
The Cowboys brought in Bryant for a Tuesday workout. Had the Cowboys not agreed to sign Bryant, the former Steelers draftee had a meeting arranged with the Titans. But Dallas will take a flier on the former starter, with Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz tweeting it is a practice squad deal.
While this reminds of Josh Gordon‘s 2017 return after 2 1/2 seasons away, Bryant has doubled Gordon’s time away from the game. The NFL reinstated Bryant last week, and although he will turn 32 next month, it is certainly interesting a few teams showed immediate interest in a player after so much time off. The Lions also expressed interest in Bryant, according to Schultz. The Cowboys are not planning to immediately elevate Bryant to the active roster, per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, eyeing a gradual buildup. Given Bryant’s past, this makes sense.
The NFL banned Bryant indefinitely on Dec. 14, 2018. This came for repeated violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. The 2011 CBA featured harsher punishments for substance abuse. Partially in exchange for agreeing to move to a 17-game regular season, the NFLPA received various concessions in the 2020 CBA. One of those came in the form of leniency on the substance-abuse front. Still, it has been more than 3 1/2 years since that CBA’s ratification. Like Gordon, Bryant will be given another opportunity. Although Gordon relapses interfered with his comeback bid — one that eventually saw the former All-Pro’s form deteriorate to the point he was no longer a sought-after player — the Cowboys will see what Bryant has left in the tank.
Like Gordon, Bryant played in the again-rebooted XFL this season. Gordon fared much better, catching 38 passes for 540 yards. Bryant, meanwhile, caught 14 passes for 154 yards in eight games with the Vegas Vipers. The Cowboys clearly liked what they saw from the former Steelers and Raiders auxiliary pass catcher, and they will see if he can come in as a tertiary target for Dak Prescott.
Back in the 2010s, Bryant was viewed as a high-ceiling talent. The Clemson alum showcased those skills at points in Pittsburgh, totaling 1,314 yards and 14 touchdown receptions between the 2014 and ’15 seasons. Bryant added an acrobatic TD in the Steelers’ narrow wild-card win over the Bengals in 2015, residing as an intriguing Antonio Brown sidekick pre-JuJu Smith-Schuster. But Bryant received drug suspensions in 2015 and ’16. Bryant received a four-game suspension in August 2015 and a full-season ban in March 2016. This led to the indefinite ban two years later.
Bryant’s rookie contract tolled to 2017, when he added 603 receiving yards for a 13-3 Steelers team, but Pittsburgh dealt the embattled wideout to Oakland in 2018. While the 6-foot-4 receiver flashed frequently during his 2010s run, it would be highly unlikely to see him return to that level after so much time away. But the XFL could be viewed as a ramp-up period for Bryant. The Cowboys have enjoyed good fortune with players from the spring leagues. They saw USFL return man KaVontae Turpin earn All-Pro acclaim last season, and USFL kicker Brandon Aubrey is off to a flawless start upon signing with the team. Aubrey is 19-for-19 on field goals thus far as a Cowboy.
The Cowboys aimed to sign Odell Beckham Jr. last season but were not satisfied with his post-ACL-tear form. They ended up adding T.Y. Hilton. The 11-year veteran made a key reception in a win over the Eagles last season. This year, Dallas acquired Brandin Cooks from Houston. Cooks has joined Michael Gallup as starters alongside CeeDee Lamb. Bryant brings size the Cowboys’ starters do not, however, with none of the first-stringers standing more than 6-1. Turpin (5-9) and 2022 third-round pick Jalen Tolbert (6-1) are in place as backups. Seventh-round rookie Jalen Brooks is also on Dallas’ 53-man roster. It will be interesting to see if Bryant sees game action as a result of this agreement.