Looking back on it, Martavis Bryant was just a pawn in the Oakland Raiders' master plan.


During the NFL offseason, the Raiders made headlines when they traded away a third-round pick in exchange for Bryant. The embattled wideout, who had fallen down the ​Pittsburgh Steelers' depth chart due to substance abuse suspensions and the rise of ​JuJu Smith-Schuster, had requested a trade in an attempt to start from scratch with a new team. Many teams were interested in Bryant's talents, as he was a lethal threat in Pittsburgh whenever he would get on the field.

When asked why they gave up such a useful draft pick for a player with questionable character, the Raiders explained that they were in win-now mode. After all, the team was publicly confident that both ​Derek Carr and ​Amari Cooper would have bounce-back years, and adding Bryant figured to be the right kind of move to top it all off.


With Week 15 approaching, however, we now know that trading for Bryant was only a smokescreen for the Raiders' true motives: to tear down their roster.


By signing Bryant, the Raiders made it look like heading into the season that they were aiming for a Super Bowl run. The Raiders quickly gave up their facade when they traded Khalil Mack, the team's best player, to the ​Chicago Bears for two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and a sixth-round pick. Later on in the season, the Raiders would ship off their best offensive player in Amari Cooper (yup, the same Amari Cooper that the Raiders were hyping up all offseason) to the ​Dallas Cowboys for a first-round pick.

If the Raiders were actually committed to winning, they would not have traded away their single best talent and their highest-upside playmaker on offense. By doing so, Oakland is showing how deceptive the Bryant deal really was. This team didn't care that they were giving up a third-round pick to the Steelers; the team would get a third-round pick right back in the Mack trade either way. 


It is clear that the Raiders put up a false win-now front in order to appease their fans. Oakland knew that Bryant wasn't going to be all that he was said to be, but they did the trade anyways to try and make it not look like the team was not imploding. Even if the Raiders were sold on Bryant talent-wise before the start of the season, they must have known that he wasn't going to be reliable from a behavioral perspective (just today, Bryant was indefinitely suspended for once again violating the NFL's substance abuse policy).

Through the Martavis Bryant smokescreen, the Oakland Raiders ironically achieved what Bryant wanted back on the Steelers: a fresh start. But it's unfortunate that Mark Davis and Co. couldn't be more honest with their fans.