So far in my short stint with The Ramble, I have used the VEGAS Archives as a way to sort draft prospects. This week, I will be modifying the acronym to make a case for why the Oakland Raiders should trade for Martavis Bryant of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
March 15 was a big day for Reggie McKenzie as he closed deals for six players. There are also plans to bring Rashaan Melvin in for a visit and the door has not closed on Navarro Bowman. So far the haul for the Raiders includes extending a nose tackle and a blocking tight end, adding another athletic blocking tight end, a blocking fullback, a versatile defensive back, a rotational running back, and a number two wide receiver.
The outgoing player was Michael Crabtree along with Marshall Newhouse, Sean Smith, and David Amerson earlier in the offseason. There are certainly still rumors surrounding the statuses of Marshawn Lynch, Seth Roberts, and Jared Cook.
With all of this in mind, we see a clear vision being implemented for this franchise and it includes a power running game with play action based passing. At the same time, there are definite deficiencies that are apparent and must be addressed by other means than free agency or the draft. The remaining free agent talent and the draft both lack the sort of talent that could be truly game-changing for the Raiders with their third wide receiver; especially considering the needs at cornerback and defensive end as the draft approaches. This is why the Raiders should trade for Martavis Bryant.
The most important aspect of this idea is the value it presents for the Raiders on multiple levels. In terms of the contract, Martavis is due 1.9 million dollars for the upcoming season and with the cost of even mediocre free agents, this is a low number. Moreover, simply cutting Roberts would free up the necessary cap space to make it work.
2018 is a tight cap year for the Raiders. On the flip side, the Raiders are going into 2019 with nearly 90 million in cap space and even when we take into consideration the new contracts, plus Mack’s extension, and Cooper’s fifth-year option, the Raiders should still have about 30 million or more left in cap space. This means the Raiders could franchise tag Bryant if they had to. Moreover, if they allowed him to hit free agency after a big season, they could recoup a considerable compensatory pick.
Lastly, Jarvis Landry was traded by the Dolphins to the Browns for a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick. The Raiders could likely get similar value or get him for even less. There is a possibility that the Raiders could get him for a pair of sixth-round picks or maybe a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
Bryant’s game is defined by his ability to get deep and provide headaches for defenses as they defend vertically. His career average for yards per reception is 15.2 which is notable. By adding this type of weapon to the Raiders, they will be able to exploit the fears teams will have defending Cooper especially when he is in the slot. Adding Martavis means adding another type of skill set that is very specific, but also very important.
The new Raiders’ head coach is notorious for complex play calls and play concepts. He puts a ton of pressure on both quarterbacks and wide receivers to understand the play calls, audibles, and what the defense is doing. Because of that, putting faith into a rookie receiver to be the third option is potentially dangerous. If that player does not catch on to the scheme and play calls quickly, Gruden can easily bury that player on the depth chart and forget they exist. Bryant has been in this league for four years and in a complex offense that has significant nuance.
To best illustrate this point we should look at the career of Jerry Porter. He was drafted in 2000 and did next to nothing as a rookie. In his second year and final year under Gruden, he recorded 220 yards receiving. In his third year, he finally made an impact as a talented third wide receiver and had 688 yards on 51 receptions. If the Raiders really want to win a Lombardi in Oakland, they do not have three years to wait to develop wide receiver depth.
At 27 years old, Martavis is just beginning to hit his emotional and mental maturity. Early in his career, he struggled with off-field issues primarily drug-related. After early entry into the NFL’s substance abuse program, he received a full year suspension in 2016. It came out after his suspension that he had been battling depression and other emotional issues. There is a healthy history of players who struggle with demons early in their career only to find their niche and prove to not only be productive players but more importantly productive members of society.
In conjunction with Martavis, the Raiders are also ascending in a big way. I have never been a big advocate of spending big money on free agency. That said, I did write a long piece about how the Raiders could manipulate the cap to sign big name free agents. We have seen that Mark Davis either had no interest in those sorts of contracts or does not have the pocket cash for them. That is very reasonable considering his new palace is being built. That does not mean that the Raiders are not a young team at the core about to hit the prime of many player’s careers. Martavis could join that core.
I began this article by writing about the Raiders and the kind of value trading for Martavis offers them. On the opposite side of this discussion is the Steelers. The biggest changes occurring to the Steelers is the contract structure of many of their players. They are so tight on the cap that they have to create more space by converting base salaries to bonuses. This will push back dead money to later years, but it is a practice they have used for well over a decade. All of this is being done so that they can absorb the Franchise Tag for Le’veon Bell and still be cap compliant long-term.
Because of this, my first thought of trading Cook and a pick for Bryant is a fantasy. Most likely the Steelers will address tight end in the draft or later in free agency when they can get someone for pennies. There is a very real chance that could be Cook after the Raiders cut him. Until then, trading two picks for Bryant would be the most likely outcome to make this transaction happen.
In addition to all of this, the Steelers have been very hesitant to commit to Bryant and rightfully so. With his past, it can be a hard pill to swallow. The public statements of the franchise indicate that they do not have Bryant in their long-term plans which makes trading him for picks now very intriguing. Of course, the Steelers could simply let him walk next offseason and rake in the compensatory pick.
To be honest, this feels like a pipe dream. It would be out of character for the Raiders under Reggie McKenzie, however, it is such a rational idea that it could certainly happen. If it were to happen, I believe the Raiders would have to match what the Browns gave the Dolphins which is a fourth-round pick and a sixth. This would mean the Raiders would be down to nine picks overall and not have one in rounds four or five, but it would be worth it.
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