ALAMEDA – Jon Gruden has plays designed to maximize Martavis Bryant’s ideal size and speed. The Raiders head coach lamented the fact they were growing stable with his most athletic receiver on the shelf.
The Raiders clearly hoped to get Bryant back down the stretch and use those plays again. Now they’re going to expire, maybe never revived again.
Bryant was placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday with a PCL injury that wasn’t going to get right before the season ended.
That was part of a significant roster shuffle as we head into the season’s final four games, with several transactions including another big-name move we’ll get to below.
Let’s stay on Bryant for now. That could be the last of him in a Raiders uniform. He’ll hit unrestricted free agency this spring, and could well sign with another team after an odd experience in the East Bay.
The Raiders traded a third-round pick for him on draft day, only to cut him just before the regular season began. Some outlets reported that Bryant could be suspended again for violating terms of his reinstatement – he was banned for a year as a repeat violator of the NFL’s substance abuse policy – but that never came to pass.
Bryant was re-signed on Sept. 12, heading into Week 2, but never became a reliable target in Gruden’s scheme. Gruden criticized Bryant frequently in the preseason, mostly for struggling to learn several receiver positions. Gruden also dubbed him the “white tiger” for majesty that was rarely visible after he missed so much practice time battling migraine headaches.
The Raiders were hopeful he would return late this year, but ultimately wasn’t ready to do so.
He wanted to use 2018 as a springboard to a bigger, long-term contract after three tumultuous seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but wasn’t able to do that. Injury, ineffectiveness and little use when healthy wasted this season and leaves Bryant still trying to realize vast potential.
Bryant wasn’t the only Raider moved to IR on Wednesday. Shilique Calhoun was also sent there with a neck injury.
So was three-time captain Reggie Nelson. The 35-year old safety struggled in pass coverage this year, and gradually lost snaps to Karl Joseph as the season went on, was shelved this season with a shoulder injury suffered against Kansas City. It's possible that, like Bryant, Nelson has played his final game in silver and black.
Nelson had seven interceptions over three seasons, and made the Pro Bowl as a Raider after the 2016 season. He had an uneven 2017, and was somewhat surprising that he returned this year. He was reunited with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, whom Nelson worked for in Cincinnati.
The Raiders currently have three safeties remaining on the roster in Joseph, Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris, though last week's signing Montrel Meander is a cornerback with experience at safety.
The team is swapping talent to account for recent injuries, and try out new players to see if they can compete for a spot on next year’s squad.
Here’s a recap of all the Raiders roster moves over the past few days:
OL Denzelle Good
DE Damonte Moore
CB Bene Benwikiere
RB C.J. Anderson
DE Kony Ealy
OL Ian Silberman (waived)
DE Fadol Brown (waived)
DE Shilique Calhoun (IR)
WR Martavis Bryant (IR)
S Reggie Nelson (IR)