Tim Benz: Trade Martavis Bryant? Better get legit defensive help in return

March 18, 2018

Oh, no. Another trade? Is this one going to get complicated, too?

Is Martavis Bryant going to wind up with the Buffalo Bills with the Vegas Golden Knights retaining a portion of his salary while Ryan Reaves somehow becomes a Chicago Bear?

Man, I don’t want to have to rewrite a second trade column within a week!

But that might be out of my control. Because it looks like a host of NFL teams are trying to acquire Bryant.

The NFL Network advanced that story late last week, stating the Steelers are listening to trade offers for the mercurial wide receiver. Since the report, there’s been speculation Buffalo already tried to acquire Bryant and could try again.

In the past few days, I’ve seen posts suggesting the Redskins, Packers and Dolphins could be destinations.

Chicago should investigate, too. The Bears must be desperate for receiving help. Receiving leader Kendall Wright had just 614 yards last season.

The Green Bay option is the most interesting one. Primarily because that suggestion comes with an actual player in return — a player at a position of need for the Steelers, former Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

“Highly versatile. Size. Speed. Change of direction. Free Safety. Strong safety. At his best, (Clinton-Dix) is a top 10-type safety,” said ESPN Pittsburgh/Steelers Radio Network analyst Matt Williamson. “I would do that in a heartbeat.”

I agree.

Williamson, a former NFL scout, pointed out what some critics of Clinton-Dix in Green Bay have griped about him. Concerns exist he isn’t a prototype at either safety position. It’s been said he regressed in 2017, and he might not be a good on-field communicator.   

“Everyone had a better year (in Green Bay) two years ago than 2017,” said Williamson, who emphasized Clinton-Dix might have looked bad at times on Green Bay’s defense, which was inferior rushing the passer compared to the Steelers last season.

The Steelers had 56 sacks. The Packers had 37.

Clinton-Dix is the first player Green Bay picked up for the fifth-year, rookie-contract designation. He’ll make $5.6 million. That would be close to the same amount of what the Steelers would save by releasing current safety Mike Mitchell.

If it doesn’t work out, the Steelers can let Bryant walk away after 2018, which probably would happen anyway. If they like Clinton-Dix, they can try to retain him during free agency.

Meanwhile, Bryant still would be nothing but the fourth-best pass catcher on the team after Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Given that Green Bay might have to restructure or release some receivers, Bryant could become more of a focal point there.

Although, short of a clearly established defensive starter coming back in return, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert should be wary of trading Bryant.

Perhaps one of those receiver-starved teams would be willing to part with a second- or third-round pick.

But that sounds optimistic.

Short of a pick of that level in exchange? Well, remember Bryant was a fourth-round pick. It took him quite a while to work his way into the offensive flow for the Steelers. So can Pittsburgh count on a contribution better than Bryant’s 50 catches and 603 yards from a third-day draft choice?

Furthermore, consider free agent Eli Rogers needs to recover from a knee injury, and no one knows what’s going to happen with Le’Veon Bell. That could be subtracting 1,407 receiving yards and 153 catches from Ben Roethlisberger.

Colbert would have to patch those holes with draft picks or free agent signings that otherwise could be better spent addressing defensive needs.

Keep in mind, Bryant started to play well and stopped being a locker room distraction the last month of the season. After a mid-year trade demand, he said he wanted to stay in Black and Gold.

“Just bring another trophy here,” Bryant said on locker clean out day. “I love the guys here, love the coaches. I don’t feel like starting that chemistry over again when you go to another team.”

Bryant is cheap — just $705,000 against the cap. Disposable after this year. Might finally stay clean. Could finally be tugging on the rope with everyone else. And could be reborn with a new offensive coordinator.

The notion of trading Bryant for immediate defensive help or high draft return doesn’t bother me.

The notion of giving him away for a mid-round pick does.

Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.