Around a month ago a rumor leaked that the Steelers could be shopping wide receiver Martavis Bryant in a trade.
A month later, even after a previous denial of any such discussions, Martavis Bryant is no longer a Pittsburgh Steeler. To general manager Kevin Colbert's defense, however, he says he wasn't pursuing a trade until the Raiders made an offer he couldn't refuse.
Steelers didn't plan on trading Martavis Bryant until they got offered a third-round pick, GM Kevin Colbert said. 'Wish Martavis nothing but the best,' he said.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 27, 2018
With that kind of offer, who could say no? The Steelers had previously dealt a problem player, also a wide receiver, Santonio Holmes, to the Jets for a fifth-round pick back in 2010.
Holmes was named the Super Bowl MVP at the conclusion of the 2008 season and had his best year as a Steeler in 2009.
Therefore, a third-round pick to pick up the final year of Bryant's current rookie deal seems like a steal for a player that was all but certain to hit free agency after the 2018 season. Also, consider the Bryant baggage: aside from his off-field problems and the possibility of being suspended indefinitely again at any time, a third-round pick sounds even better.
But it was other factors that tested the Steelers patience too. Bryant had caused some controversy with several Twitter situations over the last year. One saw him spat with then-teammate Sammie Coates over JuJu Smith-Schuster's addition in the draft. Another involved his rumored unhappiness with his playing time.
Then there was the on-field product, which following 16 months without playing in the NFL, appeared to have lost its luster, based on his 2017 season:
The intention was to have a high-powered Steelers offense with Bryant inserted into the previous year's depth chart. Instead, Bryant looked rusty and was far from the impact player many felt he'd be prior to the start of last season. He averaged three receptions for 40 yards per game. He couldn't add his usual glitz to the run game, with a poor 3.67 yards per rush average.
And his three touchdowns pale in comparison to his eight scores during his 2014 rookie season, and another six TDs in 2015.
The regression along with his off-field redemption may have finally been the last straw. It certainly doesn't hurt that JuJu Smith-Schuster had a standout rookie season either, firmly supplanting Bryant as the third receiver on the depth chart. Add a lone year remaining on his contract, and it was easy to cut ties than face what could be more distractions.
The Steelers no longer have to worry about any hold-outs, no-shows at training camp, or similar potential problems which could have occurred. They can now focus on the future which may likely mean grooming Bryant's replacement: who won't come at an additional cost and will help shore up the lack of apparent depth with the receiver group beyond the 2018 season. (Rookies typically sign a maximum four-year contract.)
Therefore, the third round pick the Raiders gave up was the price tag that finally made it the right time for the team to part with Martavis. It's actually a generous offer considering Bryant was originally a fourth-round pick himself, and the team only received a fifth rounder for Holmes. Considering what Bryant left behind in playing time (WR3) and statistically, it may not be as difficult for the Steelers to fill his 2017 production... especially since the Holmes trade brought the Steelers the pick they used to draft a guy named Antonio Brown! (Whether or not James Washington can make that type of claim is TBD.)