Will the Pittsburgh Steelers trade wide receiver Martavis Bryant ahead of, or during, the 2018 NFL Draft? Better yet, will they trade Bryant as part of package deal that involves them moving up in the first-round? Obviously, it’s hard to know the answer to those two questions, however, Bob Labriola, who has covered the Steelers for eons for the team’s official website, was recently asked the latter of those two questions as part of his most recent ‘Ask And Answered’ segment.
Below is the exact question that Labriola was asked cornering a Bryant trade along with his answer.
MALACHI OLSZEWSKI FROM NEW MARKET, AL: Could the Steelers possibly trade up in the upcoming NFL using Martavis Bryant as part of the trade?
ANSWER: Anything is possible, but I don’t believe the Steelers are interested in that kind of a move, nor would Martavis Bryant be all that attractive to another team in the kind of trade you’re proposing. From the Steelers’ standpoint, Bryant combines size and speed into the kind of playmaking ability that is an important ingredient to their offense, and they also have him under contract in 2018 for the veteran minimum. From the viewpoint of a team being offered Bryant in a trade, he is a guy who’s only under contract at a reasonable rate for one more season. It’s possible the Steelers could trade up in the upcoming draft, but I believe they’re more likely to be successful doing that if they’re offering draft pick(s) in return for moving up.
As Labriola rightfully points out in his answer, Bryant only having one year remaining on his current contract could complicate the Steelers trading him and that’s because the wide receiver could potentially wind up being a one-year rental for whatever team would acquire him. In short, if the Steelers were to package Bryant in some sort of trade that included them moving up in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, it would likely be more of a pot sweetener and thus still cost Pittsburgh not only their own first-round draft pick this year, but likely a few more of this year’s picks as well, depending, of course, on how far they are attempting move up.
In reality, if the Steelers were to deal Bryant before or during the draft, such a trade might look more like the one in 2010 that included wide receiver Santonio Holmes being sent to the New York Jets in exchange for a fifth-round selection. If you remember, Holmes was entering the final year of his rookie contract when that trade was made and was also facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. A few days after Holmes was traded to the Jets, that suspension was handed down. And after the 2011 lockout ended, the Jets signed Holmes to a lucrative contract extension.
In theory, Bryant’s situation is a lot like Holmes’ was in 2010. Bryant is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract and while no new suspension is hopefully forthcoming for him, he has already served two of them for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In short, the Steelers would probably do good to get a fourth-round draft pick this year should they trade him away.
While Bryant’s 2017 season can probably be characterized as somewhat of a disappointment, he still managed to catch 50 passes for 603 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s still a very talented player and one who could potentially improve on his 2017 stats in 2018. At the same time, however, it’s easy to speculate that Bryant might only play roughly 65-68% of all offensive snaps in 2018 and if that’s ultimately the case, you must wonder if we’ll see him get frustrated just as he did this past season and thus once again ask the Steelers to play him more or trade him.
Even if the Steelers decide not to trade Bryant this offseason they can still draft another tall, speedy, field-flipping wide receiver in the middle rounds to hopefully be his heir apparent. If that happens and the young wide receiver develops quickly enough, and Bryant shows more disgust for lack of playing time like he did this past season, the Steelers could potentially deal him to needy team prior to the annual trade deadline.
So, what is the perfect scenario related to all of this and assuming that Bryant can’t be included in some sort of first-round move-up trade this offseason? In short and for starters, the Steelers should still try to find Bryant’s heir apparent during the middle rounds of this year’s draft. The other part of the perfect scenario would be that Bryant has a solid 2018 season complete with him not being a distraction. Assuming both of those things happen, Bryant can then be allowed to shop his services to the highest bidder during the 2019 free agent signing period and if the contract that he ultimately signs with a different team is lucrative enough, the Steelers would stand to receive a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2020.
In summation and as Labriola smartly pointed out at the beginning of his answer, anything is possible when it comes to Bryant potentially being traded this offseason and especially when it comes to his history in Pittsburgh. Whatever ultimately happens with Bryant during the next few months, I won’t be surprised if he’s retained or traded away. If the latter happens, however I suspect such a deal will be similar to the Holmes deal back in 2010 and thus not part of any kind of first-round move-up.