"I'm a Texas boy all day," Dez Bryant says he wants to stay in the Lone Star State
The long-awaited meeting between Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and wide receiver Dez Bryant regarding his future has been set for Friday, a source confirmed.
The news was first reported on 105.3 The Fan, the team’s flagship network.
Vice president Stephen Jones has said on a number of occasions since the start of the off-season that Bryant’s $12.5 million contract and $16.5 million cap hit for next season were issues for the Cowboys going forward, given the decline in his production over the past three years.
A pay cut or release were likely the only alternatives.
The conversation with Jerry Jones will certainly cover both topics.
But it should be noted that the elder Jones doesn’t do contracts and there have been no discussions as of yet with Bryant’s representatives.
The meeting is taking place a week later than Jerry Jones planned, but it’s no coincidence that it’s coming before the start of the off-season program on April 16.
The Cowboys wouldn’t want to risk Bryant suffering an injury while working out with the team, thus guaranteeing his 2018 salary.
Also, having the situation linger much longer is not good for anyone and certainly wouldn’t foster the proper environment to start off-season workouts.
Anything is possible, but this meeting is seemingly shaping up more like a departure from the passionate-but-combustible Bryant rather than an extension of what has been a roller-coaster ride since the Cowboys took him 24th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys would have already released Bryant, 29, if they would have secured the services of receiver Sammy Watkins during the first week of free agency.
Watkins chose to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs over a competitive offer from the Cowboys, according to a source.
The Cowboys added receivers Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in free agency and have been focused on adding a receiver early in the 2018 NFL Draft, set for April 26-28.
Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Maryland’s D.J. Moore, Florida's Antonio Callaway and Oklahoma State’s James Washington were reportedly brought in for pre-draft visits. The Cowboys have also spent time with SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk at their respective pro days.
None of this bodes well for Bryant's future, especially considering the team’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions has gone from one of the league’s top receivers to the middle of the pack since signing a five-year $70 million contract extension in 2015.
Before the 2015 season, Bryant put up three consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.
In each of the three seasons since, Bryant has failed to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark and has not had double-digit touchdowns.
Last season, Bryant led the Cowboys in receptions (69), receiving yards (838) and touchdown catches (6), but also ranked among the league leaders with 12 dropped passes. He did not have a 100-yard receiving game, either.
Injuries are part of the story for Bryant as he suffered a fractured foot in 2015, causing him to finish the season on injured reserve and undergo off-season surgery. In 2016, he missed three games with a fractured bone in his knee.
And while he didn’t miss any games in 2017, he battled through an ankle injury and knee tendinitis.
He also let himself get sidetracked by off-the-field noise that he said played a role in his declining play.
While Bryant has vowed to come back better, stronger, healthier and more focused in 2018, the decision might be out of his hands at this point for a Cowboys team that is tired of the distractions and looking to start fresh.
The Cowboys already have $30 million in cap space committed to the receiver corps, including the additions of Hurns and Thompson to go along with the holdovers of Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown.
With a rookie receiver likely coming in the draft, something has to give.
If the Cowboys do part ways with Bryant, the team would save $8.5 million off the cap, but he would still count as $8 million in dead money. If he is designated as a post-June 1 cut, he would count $4 million against the 2018 cap and $4 million against the 2019 cap.
The Cowboys would get the real money relief of saving his $12.5 base salaries for 2018 and 2019.
In addition to leading the Cowboys in touchdown receptions, he is third all-time in receptions, with 531, and fifth in yards, with 7,459.