Could the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant command a DeSean Jackson-sized contract come 2015?
Yesterday there were three developments in the NFL, and while none of them directly affected the Cowboys, all could demonstrate a doomsday scenario in 3 years time. Despite difficulties in basic NFL tasks-like running routes, catching passes or knowing the playbook- Dez Bryant has developed into one of the better wide receivers in the NFL and still has the one of the highest ceilings at his position, but recent developments display the disturbing trend that his best days might not be in Dallas.
First, temperamental receiver DeSean Jackson was franchised costing the Eagles 9.6 million dollars on a one year deal as they scramble for a long-term, high salary contract. The next two, substantially more surprising developments involved two Steelers receivers-Mike Wallace and Hines Ward- with the former being tendered (and likely to be claimed by a contender) and the latter released to clear cap room.
Unfortunately, all three of those scenarios are legitimate possibilities with Dez Bryant, as the embattled Cowboy will likely outgrow the cap in the coming years as he continues to develop his skills and (actually) learn his position, posing an interesting problem for Dallas: what happens when he becomes too expensive to keep?
He signed a five year deal in 2010 and will be a free agent in 2015 when current franchise cornerstones Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware will likely be retired or on another team altogether, and new franchise players will be steering the ship (with larger contracts no doubt.)
He will be 26 years old, one of the youngest free agents and almost assuredly a crown jewel of the class, a proposition that spells one thing-an enormous contract. A comparable receiver to Dez Bryant on and off the field-Chad Ochocinco- signed a five year extension in 2006 worth 35.5 million dollars (for the sake of simplicity the math will assume 6 million dollars a year, or 36 million dollars instead of 35.5.)
The cap has grown an average of 2% over the last 5 years, but could possibly decrease because of the new CBA in which players receive only 48% of the revenue (a ten percent drop from 2010.)The NFL projects to expand its revenue by 2.5% in 2012 and 2013, and adding the same amount to 2014 (calendar year) means about a 7.5% increase in revenue over the next three years, and add that revenue to the 10% drop in player share of revenue and that’s still a 2.5% drop in total player salaries.
Subtract the 2.5% from 15% gain in salary cap the NFL experienced from 2006 (when Chad Ochocinco signed the extension) to present day and a 12.5% increase in salary from Ochocinco’s extension is presumably about what Dez Bryant could command from an extension.
(This is a rough estimate. The logic used in the following math could very well be wrong, but the point of the exercise is to get an idea of about what he could command, not necessarily an exact number.)
That’s 6 years/40.5 million dollars in today’s money. (Considering the movement towards giving star players larger and larger salaries, this could be nearer to 6 years/42 million or even 48 million dollars, but the 250 words used to justify the math will not be wasted, so 6 years 40.5 million it is.) That’s 6.75 million dollars a year, a price tag Dallas doesn’t seem able to pay.
Some of Dallas’ free agents in 2015 include Tyron Smith, Demarco Murray and Bruce Carter coming off of rookie contracts (and will likely be clamoring for large extensions themselves,) and 2015 also features an assortment of Cowboys-DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Jay Ratliff- nearing the end of their extensions (all of which are back-loaded.) In other words, it’s looking like cap room hell in 2015, and something of a watershed moment roster-wise.
The old guard will be mostly eliminated come 2015-some will likely be “encouraged” to retire for salary cap reasons- and a new guard will come ready to take accept their positions (and extensions too,) but none of this makes clearing room for Bryant any easier.
Extensions for a franchise left tackle (as of today it looks that way,) a starting running back (as of today it looks that way) and of a starting inside linebacker (as of today it looks that way) look to eat up the vast majority of the cap Dallas could possibly save up in the years prior.
So even if he doesn’t get a 9 million dollar a year deal, he does have a DeSean Jackson contract-the team wants him, but he’s probably not staying.