After rumors that Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had requested a traded were reportedly squashed last week, the talented wideout’s name is back in the headlines after Pittsburgh’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals. That
night, Bryant called out Steelers rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on Instagram and then “called in sick” to work Monday. Now, even if Bryant didn’t request a trade, it would appear both parties are headed to an ugly breakup.

Cutting the talented Bryant would be an extreme last resort, but his trade value plummets with each passing sub-50-yard outing. If the Steelers are going to recoup some value from the much-maligned wide receiver, here are three potential trading partners:

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are a perfect fit for a number of reasons. The most obvious: They’ve gotten almost no production out of No. 2 receiver Terrance Williams. He’s been targeted only 26 times on 163 routes, garnering just 180 yards. His 1.1 yards per route is 68th out of 83 qualifying receivers. Almost every wide receiver who is worse is either a slot receiver in an offense that doesn’t feature them or plays with a far worse quarterback than Dak Prescott.

While the need is obvious, the fit also makes sense. The Cowboys have been more than willing to take chances on players with various off-field issues over the past few years. Bryant’s speed also would be a necessary addition to an offense that has been struggling to push the ball downfield. Williams, along with Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley — the Cowboys’ top three receivers — have a grand total of two receptions on passes targeted 20-plus yards downfield. When Bryant was happy and healthy in 2015, he had eight such catches to go along with five drops.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints seemingly have been in win-now mode for the past decade under Drew Brees. For the first time in a handful of years, though, they actually are winning . . . now. Four straight to be exact, thanks in large part to a defense that can finally hold its own. Even though the Saints are strapped against the cap, they still have room to fit in Bryant’s rookie contract. With Willie Snead sidelined, they’ve thrust former undrafted free agent Brandon Coleman into a large role. He’s played 289 snaps — the second most of any skill position player on the team — yet he’s been an afterthought for Brees. Of the 82 receivers to have run at least 150 routes this season, Coleman has been targeted at the fourth-lowest rate. This comes while playing the same position in the offense that Marques Colston averaged more than 100 targets a season for a decade.

Bryant certainly has the skill set to translate to the same big-slot position that Coleman fills and could add even more playmaking ability. In 2015, Bryant’s 7.0 yards after the catch average was the second-best figure of any receiver in the NFL. The addition of another weapon to an offense that is already in the top five in points and yards would push the Saints from playoff contenders to Super Bowl contenders.

New York Jets

The Steelers aren’t about to deal Bryant to a contender in the AFC, and with as much parity as there is in that conference through seven weeks, that only leaves a few possible trade partners. While the Browns would also make sense, the Steelers would catch too much flak if Bryant were to burn them multiple times a season for it to seem plausible. From the Jets’ perspective, they simply need to add young talent anywhere they can on the roster. While the addition of Bryant would help New York’s offense, the Steelers don’t have to worry about the move suddenly turning the Jets into a legitimate playoff contender.

This is also the only destination that offers Bryant the chance to be a No. 1 receiver. Dallas and New Orleans might not be willing to offer too much to Pittsburgh for fear that if the ball goes more to Dez Bryant and Michael Thomas, the same issues could arise. In New York, Bryant could quite easily see the bulk of the targets from Day 1. At the moment, there is no one “guy” at the position for the Jets. Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse have nearly identical stats on the season, as shown below.

WR Routes Run Targets Yards Yards per Route
Robby Anderson 216 43 331 1.53
Jermaine Kearse 232 35 328 1.41

With neither on pace to even eclipse 800 yards for the season, it’s fairly clear that a talented player such as Bryant could easily rise to the top of the depth chart.

Mike Renner is a writer for Pro Football Focus and a contributor to The Washington Post’s NFL coverage.

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