The Pittsburgh Steelers, and General Manager Kevin Colbert in particular, seemed to be pretty adamant heading into the pre-draft process that they were going to go into the 2018 season with wide receiver Martavis Bryant on the roster. That all changed in the middle of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft when Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders came calling with an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Colbert was recently on the air and discussed a variety of topics, and among those he was asked to address was why he felt that the third-round pick they got for the fourth-year wide receiver was worth it after he seemed clear he didn’t expect a trade to take place. Colbert responded by talking about Bryant’s road back on the field.
“Martavis, to his credit, not many players coming off a year-long suspension ever get back to the league or produce, and to his credit, he beat the odds and put together a good 2017”, he noted. Bryant of course spent the 2016 season serving an indefinite suspension.
“Looking forward, moving forward with Antonio, with JuJu, chances are that Martavis would not sign with us once he became a free agent”, Colbert acknowledged, for I believe the first time publicly. “If he left us in unrestricted free agency we would have probably gotten a third-round compensatory-type pick, but you wouldn’t get that until 2020”.
Frankly I think he’s being overly ambitious in thinking Bryant would have yielded a third-round compensatory value. Then again, the wide receiver market can get pretty ridiculous.
“When teams were enquiring about Martavis earlier in the process they were always talking about something late and we said we’d rather have the player and get the pick later on down the road”, the general manager said, and this is what we expected that the case was all along, before it suddenly changed.
“But when the pick that we would get two years from now was available now we said ‘let’s take it’”, Colbert said of taking the third-round pick offered in 2018, rather than waiting for a potential later third-round pick in two years’ time, “because that pick can maybe help us, not only this year but for more years. And with Martavis we probably only would have had him for one season”.
The Steelers got the 79th-overall pick from the Raiders for Bryant. The best pick, in 2020, they possible could have gotten for him as a compensatory pick would have been 97, which is the first compensatory selection in the draft. They did get that pick when Mike Wallace left.
The Steelers were willing to sacrifice one more year with Bryant on the field in exchange for James Washington, taken in the second round, for the next four years while getting back better value than they could have possibly gotten for Bryant in the best-case non-trade scenario. The team never lied or misdirected about their intentions with Bryant. They just never expected to get the value they eventually did.