Gruden says Raiders could bring Martavis Bryant back next year

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The Raiders sending their third-round draft pick to Pittsburgh for wide receiver Martavis Bryant seems like a disastrous decision after Bryant was cut on Saturday, but coach Jon Gruden defended his decision today.

Gruden even said Bryant could be back with the Raiders next year.

“The guy’s a superb talent. The guy’s got great talent,” he said. “We’ll be criticized for that but it was a risk I think well worth taking. Perhaps we’ll get Martavis again next year and get the best out of him.”

The reference to next year seems to be an acknowledgement that Bryant is facing some kind of issue related to the league’s substance-abuse policy that could keep him from playing this year. Bryant has already missed one full season because of a league-imposed suspension and there have been reports that he’s facing another issue this year, although neither the league, the Raiders nor Bryant has confirmed those reports.

If Bryant is suspended this year and reinstated next year, Gruden sounds interested in bringing him back. But the Raiders have no claim on Bryant, who is a free agent.

Ultimately, Gruden said Bryant just didn’t perform well enough to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster.

“We expected more from him,” Gruden said. “We tried to keep the five or six best receivers and that’s what we did.”

Bryant has undeniable talent and showed flashes of that talent at times in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers were glad to trade him away, and Gruden was foolish to give up a third-round pick for Bryant.