There are two weeks to go for the Dallas Cowboys and Dez Bryant to hammer out a long-term extension by the July 15 deadline. His agents and the Cowboys met for the first time in months last week, but work remains to be done.
For now, Bryant is set to play the 2015 season under the franchise tag, although he’s threatened to miss regular-season games without a long-term contract.
Here are five thoughts on the matter:
1. Does this make sense for the Cowboys?
The organization has two, maybe three, more realistic chances to win a Super Bowl with Tony Romo, and they are putting one of those seasons in jeopardy by not paying Romo’s top offensive weapon.
Bryant is a dynamic playmaker and his numbers don’t lie. Why are the Cowboys playing hardball with someone who is as emotional as Bryant?
Sure, the franchise tag is there for teams to use, but at what cost? An unhappy Bryant could also be an unproductive Bryant. With a possible Super Bowl run at stake, it seems worthwhile to keep one of your best players happy.
2. Should the Cowboys set the wide-receiver market?
Stephen Jones has repeatedly said this issue is more than Bryant. It’s a league-wide issue with several teams having star receivers approaching free agency (Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas).
Jones has made it clear that the Cowboys don’t necessarily want to be the first team to “set the market.” But they should want to do exactly that.
Whichever team gets their receiver locked up first is going to have the cheapest contract of all. No agent is going to let their client sign for less than what has already been set as the market value.
So, if I’m the Cowboys, I’m jumping at the chance to set the market because it’s setting the floor, not the ceiling.
3. Is the wide-receiver position worth the money?
Bryant, or any top receiver for that matter, isn’t worth the money. There’s no question that Bryant and the rest of the aforementioned receivers make their teams better.
But star receivers haven’t necessarily been needed for Super Bowl runs in recent years. Just look at the Patriots wide-receiver corps a year ago. Heck, the New England Patriots were winning Super Bowls with Troy Brown as their No. 1 receiver in the early 2000s.
How many Super Bowls did Randy Moss win in his playing days? Terrell Owens? Chad Johnson?
That’s not to understate the value of the wide receiver, simply pointing out that elite receivers don’t always translate to championships.
Maybe the Cowboys believe they can win a championship without locking up Bryant for the long haul.
4. Can franchise-tag money be a good deal for Bryant?
First, as stated in No. 2, the first receiver to sign is likely going to be getting the least amount of money. Sure, every player wants a long-term contract with a lot of guaranteed money, and Bryant is no different.
But the franchise tag isn’t a bad thing, either. Bryant is set to make $12.8 million next season, and if he’s slapped with the tag again in 2016, he’ll make roughly $16 million. Essentially, he’s getting a two-year, $29 million contract fully guaranteed, and then hitting the open market when he’s 28.
Wide receivers can be productive into their mid-30s, and don’t have the drop-off seen in running backs. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Bryant can land a contract after his franchise-tag years with as much as $30 million — if not more — guaranteed on the open market.
That puts Bryant with close to $60 million guaranteed over the next seven or so years. The Cowboys aren’t going to give him anywhere close to that this off-season, or next.
5. Who will blink first in the negotiations?
It’s understandable that Bryant would want the Cowboys to drop the ability to use the franchise tag on him a second consecutive season. It’s unlikely, but the Cowboys set a bad precedent when they gave Greg Hardy the same luxury.
So a guy who has as troubled a past as Hardy gets it, but not a guy who has put up All-Pro seasons for the organization? That doesn’t seem right.
But it’s hard to see the Cowboys caving at this point.
If that’s the case, Bryant should simply tell the Cowboys that between now and July 15 is their only exclusive negotiating window. If they don’t get a deal done by then, Bryant is determined to hit the open market, whether after next season or after 2016 and go to the highest bidder.
Maybe that bidder is the Cowboys, maybe it’s not.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760