ALAMEDA – The Raiders cut Martavis Bryant less than two weeks ago. They brought him back on Tuesday in a surprising turn that should quickly improve their receiver corps.
The Raiders needed a deep threat, someone to draw safeties' attention and stretch the field vertically.
They chose to go with someone they know.
An NFL source told NBC Sports Bay Area that Bryant will return to the Raiders on a one-year contract. The sides honed in on a deal Tuesday, when Bryant returned to the team’s Alameda training complex.
NFL Network was first to report the news.
Since Bryant is in shape and familiar with jon Gruden’s scheme and terminology, he’s expected to step in and play right away.
Exactly how long he’ll play remains uncertain, because his league standing remains in question. Multiple reports stated Bryant is facing a one-year suspension as a repeat offender of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, pending the completion of an appeals process.
Nothing is resolved in that regard, so Bryant’s league standing remains uncertain at this stage. The league could bring action at a later date, but Bryant can play until that happens, if it ever does.
His new one-year contract is not guaranteed because it was agreed upon during the year, so the Raiders could move on at any time without long-term financial commitment. If he is suspended again, it would be without pay.
Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie said cutting Bryant had nothing to do with his league standing, that it was a football decision made because he lost out to other receivers.
“We expected more from him. He did not make the team because Keon Hatcher came on, and other players outperformed him,” Gruden said. “We covered that during training camp, when he missed extended amounts of time. You saw Hatcher [in the preseason finale]. He did it in the game. He has done it on the practice field. He can play multiple positions and can play on special teams. We tried to keep the five or six best receivers we had.”
That crew has changed since rosters were trimmed to 53. Brandon LaFell was signed and Johnny Holton was let go. Per the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Holton has returned to the Raiders practice squad.
Bryant was acquired for a third-round pick on the NFL draft’s opening night, but fell out of Gruden’s favor in training camp. Bryant was criticized for regularly missing practice – that earned him the nickname “White tiger” – and struggling to learn multiple receiver positions.
There’s no arguing Bryant’s ability as a deep threat, with ideal size and speed. He could be an asset to a receiver corps lacking in downfield options outside Amari Cooper.
Bryant has 126 receptions for 1,917 yards and 17 touchdowns in three NFL seasons, all played in Pittsburgh. He has been suspended several times for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, which has slowed his career considerably since being drafted in the fourth round out of Clemson.