Should the Cowboys draft a receiver or a lineman? Here's who they're most likely to end up with
The Dez Bryant era with the Dallas Cowboys is over.
Bryant was informed of his release after a Friday meeting with owner Jerry Jones to discuss his future.
The Cowboys saved $8.5 million off the cap, but the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver still counts $8 million in dead money. He will be designated as a pre-June 1 cut.
Jones released the following statement, "As an organization we hold Dez Bryant in the highest regard, and we are grateful for his passion, spirit and contributions to this team for the past eight years. He will always be a valued member of our family.
"Dez and I share a personal and professional relationship that is very strong, and he is one of just a handful of players with whom I have become that close to over the past 30 years.
"This was not an easy decision. It was made based upon doing what we believe is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We arrived at this crossroad collectively with input from several voices within the organization. Ultimately we determined it was time to go in a new direction."
The finances were at the crux of the decision but not the sole reason for the departure.
The Cowboys simply wanted to move on from Bryant.
A disappointed Bryant said he knew the end was coming and had resigned himself to accepting the release.
But admitted via social media that it wasn't his doing or his wish.
"Cowboy nation I need you to know this wasn’t my decision.. I will always love y’all... forever Dallas in my heart," Bryant tweeted.
The outcome is still shocking because of Bryant’s stature within the organization and Jones’ close personal relationship with him since the team picked him 24th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
No player has caught more touchdown passes in team history, and he remains one of the franchise’s most popular players. But his departure should not be surprising, given not only the rhetoric being spewed out of the Cowboys organization since the beginning of the offseason, but also their actions.
Vice president Stephen Jones has said on a number of occasions since the start of the offseason 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.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys didn't even offer Bryant a pay cut.
The Cowboys would have already released Bryant, 29, if they had 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 also fielded trade offers for Bryant.
A Cowboys future without Bryant was seemingly coming sooner or later. The team did add 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 that boded 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 offseason 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 had vowed to come back better, stronger, healthier and more focused in 2018, the decision was out of his hands for a Cowboys team that is tired of the distractions and looking to start fresh.
The Cowboys already had $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 had to give.
These were the backdrops for Friday’s meeting and decision on his future that needed to happen before the start of the offseason program on Monday.
The Cowboys didn’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 offseason workouts.
In addition to leaving the Cowboys as their all-time leader in touchdown receptions, Bryant departs third all-time in receptions, with 531, and fifth in yards, with 7,459.
Now the question is where will Bryant continue his career.
Bryant's agent Kim Miale of Roc Nation Sports said that he is exploring all options..
“Dez and Jerry Jones met earlier today,” Miale said via a statement to NFL media. “He was informed that the Cowboys intend to move in another direction. It is a bittersweet time for Dez because he loved playing for the Dallas Cowboys, but he is looking forward to a fresh start with a new organization. We are currently exploring all options.”
Bryant has also vowed to make Cowboys regret their decision and is very interested in joining a team in the NFC East so he can face the Cowboys twice a year.
'If I didn’t have my edge I got it now... I’m sorry they got to feel me it’s personal... it’s very personal," Bryant tweeted.