According to a report on Monday from Sirius XM contributor Rudy Carpenter, former Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders wide receiver, Martavis Bryant officially applied for reinstatement.
The 28-year-old last played in 2018 with the Raiders after forcing his way out of Pittsburgh the previous year. In addition to the indefinite suspension that’s kept him out of the league since 2018, Bryant was suspended for four games in 2015 and the entirety of the 2016 season.
While not reinstated yet, a policy in the new collective bargaining agreement should help him remain in the league. The CBA, ratified in March, states that players will no longer be suspended for positive marijuana tests.
Bryant has missed two of the last four seasons due to suspensions, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a hot name out on the market. Just with any team, if a player has the ability to make an offense or defense better, he should absolutely be considered.
That is no different when it comes to the Los Angeles Rams. Over the past three years, head coach Sean McVay has shown the necessity of a deep threat in his offense. In 2017 the team traded for Sammy Watkins before trading for Brandin Cooks in 2018.
For the first time in the McVay era, the Rams don’t have that bonfied deep threat. The team traded Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans before the draft. They then selected Van Jefferson in the third round whi is more of a possession receiver than a home run hitter. The team did sign Brandon Polk out of James Madison as an undrafted free agent, but it’s hard to expect an undrafted player to fill a large role. Polk ran a 4.36 40-time at his private pro day.
Cooks’ effect with the Rams as a deep threat was felt right away. The Rams offense didn’t have a single receiver record more than 15 receptions of more than 20 yards in 2017. In 2018, Cooks helped the offense explode as Goff ranked second in the league in such passes and Cooks finished sixth in the league with 22. What’s also worth noting is that Cooks opened things up for Robert Woods who saw a spike of 12 receptions of 20+ yards to 20.
Battling with a concussion last season, Cooks only had nine such receptions, but his 13.9 yards per catch average still ranked 36th which in the same area as deep threats such as Kenny Stills, Tedd Ginn Jr., and was .9 yards shy of Tyreek Hill. In 2018 that number was all the way up at 15.5.
There’s little doubt that bringing in Cooks to replace Sammy Watkins had an effect on the dominance of the Rams offense. Pairing Cooks with one of the best deep ball throwers in the league in Jared Goff made defenses respect that threat and open things up for Woods and Kupp. That wasn’t the case as much last season and as of now, it certainly won’t be for 2020.
As it stands, fans are looking at an offense that much more resembles the 2017 Rams or the 49ers offense led by Jimmy Garoppolo than the offense that exploded in 2018 and the early part of 2019.
That’s where Martavis Bryant comes in. Unlike a Sammy Watkins or Brandin Cooks, Bryant won’t cost a draft pick and with minimal cap space, given his history, the wide receiver won’t require a lot of money either. Factor this in, as a rookie, Bryant’s 21.1 yards per reception ranked first among NFL wide receivers. In 2015 that number was 15.3 as he ranked inside the top-20. Once again, he was also among the league’s best with five receptions of 40 or more yards.
After being suspended in 2016, Bryant returned with a smaller role, but still managed 12.1 yards per reception and was back up to 14.0 through two games with the Raiders before another suspension.
In 2014 and 2015, Bryant was one of the best deep threats in the game and in 2017 and 2018, he still was able to show flashes despite coming off of a suspension and switching teams. He isn’t just a one-trick pony either. In 2014, Bryant scored four times in the red zone and had three in 2015. Kupp proved to be a threat in the red zone last season with seven touchdowns, but the next closest Ram was Tyler Higbee with three scores inside the 20. In 2018, Cooks led the Rams with four.
The obvious counter to signing Bryant is that the Rams already have a deep wide receiver room. The top two guys are set with Woods and Kupp and then the team just drafted Van Jefferson in the third round. That doesn’t even mention how the team is expecting big things from Josh Reynolds this season.
While that true, it doesn’t change the fact that the team doesn’t have a proven deep-threat player. Bryant has proven that he can beat a defense over the top consistently and at a high level. Having someone like Bryant that can take the top off of a defense opens up so much for the players like Kupp and Woods underneath as well as the run game.
As it stands, Bryant is better than any of the undrafted players that the Rams signed and would be able to compete for the same spot on the depth chart, if not split time with Reynolds while bringing a whole different play style.
The Rams offense is going to look different in 2020 with potentially more two wide receiver, two tight end sets. However, that doesn’t mean the need of a deep threat isn’t there. Bryant has proven that he can be one of the best in the game at stretching the field and is a low-risk, high-reward player at this point in his career. If the price is cheap, the former Steelers wide receiver, might just be worth a shot.