Aug 7, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) smiles as he walks off the field after the San Diego Chargers beat the Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has almost said all he’s going to about a pending contract extension with the team. Although there’s still better than a week remaining before Dallas opens the regular season against San Francisco, the fifth-year pass catcher out of Oklahoma State has made it public that he will not speak further about the potential event after the 49ers game—provided it isn’t done already.
Frankly, I’m leaning towards the “already done” direction.
It’s not much of a secret that Bryant will soon become one of the top paid wide receivers in the National Football League. Once the dust clears following the likely pay raise, the only two names that might remain above Bryant’s name, at least in terms of annual earnings, might be Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and possibly Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals.
Then again, Bryant could become the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.
This reminds me of the 1992 preseason concerning Bryant’s No. 88 predecessor, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin.
Like Bryant, Irvin had just completed his rookie contract following the 1991 regular season, which saw Irvin finally emerge as the top receiving threat for a Dallas offense led by then-quarterback Troy Aikman. Irvin finally broke 1,000 yards receiving as his early injury history in the NFL was finally behind him.
Missing most of training camp in ’92, Irvin eventually signed a three-year extension that put him in the same neighborhood as Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers, easily the best wide receiver in the NFL at the time. The former receiver from the University of Miami arrived just in time to help the Cowboys defeat the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins on a season-opening Monday night.
Bryant hasn’t exactly had the injuries that Irvin had, but he was a bit of a question mark over his first two seasons. Behavioral issues both on and off the field seemed to illustrate that the younger version of Bryant wasn’t reaching potential. Drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, it wasn’t until the 2012 regular season that Bryant surpassed the 1,000 yard receiving mark and he still seems to be getting better at the position.
It’s also worth noting that Bryant hasn’t even held out, as Irvin basically did in ’92, while scheduled to earn just $1.7 million in 2014. He’s been about as much of a team player and leader as anyone could have asked—or hoped some four years ago.
Bryant has turned some corners en route to becoming one of the most impossible one-on-one matchups in the league. If owner and general manager Jerry Jones, or son Stephen, for that matter, were impressed with Irvin’s 20 touchdowns after four seasons, where do you think their enthusiasm level is when it comes to Bryant’s 40 touchdown grabs over the same time frame?
With numbers like that, it makes you want to go out and buy some party buses, right?
The Cowboys have no intention of allowing Bryant to leave via free agency following the season and they don’t think they’re about to irritate Bryant’s camp by waiting to get into the regular season before finalizing a deal.
So, when Bryant says that he won’t be talking about the extension after the season starts, it’s almost certainly because he won’t have to. I fully expect the Cowboys to be announcing the new pact sometime next week, but certainly prior to the season opener against the 49ers.
If nothing else, history repeats itself and we know that Jerry loves his wide receivers, especially when they wear No. 88.