Now that Martavis Bryant’s season is officially over, there are many folks saying ‘what a waste’. But this one isn’t matter of hindsight 20/20 (or 50/50). Anyone with actual sight would see that trade was a mistake from the moment it was made.
Let’s go back a way to... the moment the trade was made.
At the time of the trade, Reggie McKenzie said the Raiders were treating the Bryant trade like a draft pick. If judged on the criteria we typically judge draft picks, it was a bad one.
The Raiders sent the third rounder they acquired when trading down in the first round with the Cardinals. The Cardinals got a franchise quarterback, and in return the Raiders got a receiver with a litany of red flags including missing an entire season to substance abuse and being disgruntled he wasn’t starting over the highly talented JuJu Smith-Schuster. All Bryant had in his Gruden vouching for how hard he worked in practice. We’ve seen a few practice warriors burn out in Oakland.
Whatever, the trade was done, now it was time to prove those red flags were false ones. He never did that.
Come training camp, Gruden was voicing his displeasure in the media about how Bryant was not up to speed with his team, wasn’t versatile, and missed too many practices to illness. The illness part was Bryant’s known issue of migraines. And his lack of versatility was just the kind of player he is. That’s not a knock on him, really, that’s just what you’re getting. He’s a long deep threat. He’s not going to be going over the middle and running crisp routes. That’s just not who he is. If that’s what Gruden wanted, again, he made a mistake in trading for Bryant.
Then came the roster cutdown. And Bryant was among those let go. At that moment, the third round pick was a loss. He was now a free agent. If he was such a talented receiver with a skillset teams wanted to add to their roster, surely one of them would snatch him up when they didn’t have to surrender anything for him. No one did. They stayed away.
After the first game of the season, with Bryant’s contract no longer guaranteed, they brought him back. Ok, so he would have a chance to redeem himself and prove at least he was a valuable asset and the ‘dynamic’ weapon he was touted to be by McKenzie when he was originally acquired. He never did.
Over 8 games, he caught just 19 passes for 266 yards and no touchdowns. He was behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson on the depth chart, which was expected. But then Cooper was traded to the Cowboys, which would seem to open the door for him. But it was Brandon LaFell — who hadn’t had a catch all season — who was given the start while Bryant’s snaps remained limited.
Without Coop starting, Bryant would have just five catches for 46 yards in three games. Then he would injury his PCL.
For three weeks Bryant remained on the roster despite the injury. Then starting a week ago, the status of Bryant went all over the map.
Thursday Greg Olson was quite certain Bryant would be returning this season. Friday the ‘White Tiger’ returned to practice and was listed as questionable for the game. Saturday his status was downgraded to Doubtful. Sunday he was inactive. Monday Gruden said he had ‘no sense’ of when Bryant would return. Tuesday Bryant was sent to injured reserve, ending his season, and perhaps his time in Oakland altogether.
Gruden has suggested maybe he would try to bring Bryant back this offseason, though I can’t see why considering he never seemed to much care for him as a receiver. Even if he was invited back, nothing he does going forward changes how bad of a trade that was from the start and every step of the way.