I try not to get caught up in player contract negotiations, but the buzz around Dallas Cowboys’ Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant is deafening. As I browse social media, the hashtag #SignDez is trending worldwide for a reason. Cowboy Nation can relax because the panic isn’t necessary. Although he may not prefer being on the franchise tag, the ugly truth is Bryant is still under contract with the Cowboys.
The franchise tag means that Bryant will earn $12,823,000 for one year of football. That number is determined by a mathematical formula agreed upon by the owners and the NFL players union to be “fair market value”. That value varies based on the players position. The Cowboys recently experienced having a “premiere” player use the franchise tag.
While slightly older during his contract negotiation, the player that this situation reminds me of is former Dallas Cowboys defensive end, Anthony Spencer.
Anthony Spencer’s Contract Details from 2007 – 2014 (Spotrac.com)
53 / 80
1 yr (tag)
14 / 16
1 yr (tag)
0 / 16
0 / 16
In the crazy, bizzarro world of the NFL, a major flaw (in my opinion) is that the players are paid BEFORE they do any work. With the owners being so business savvy, I always expect that to be the next major change in the NFL’s system. Of course these are just the thoughts of a blue collar guy. Playing players in advance is a crap shoot that doesn’t favor the franchise. How much do you think cornerback Morris Claiborne would’ve earned during his tenure in Dallas had his salary been production based?
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Back to Spencer – as a rookie, in 2007, his five year deal averaged roughly $1.5 million per year. With the Cowboys unable to determine his long term worth, he played under the franchise tag and earned $8.9 million in 2012. With 11 sacks, Spencer earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews. During the off-season, contract negotiations stalled again and the Cowboys gave him $10.6 million. Regretfully, Spencer injured his knee and played in one game before getting placed on injured reserve for the season.
Who knows how big Spencer’s defensive contribution could’ve been if he hadn’t injured his knee. It’s easier to speculate that he might have received more than $12 million, if he had signed a three to five year, front loaded deal at 28 years old. That’s the financial security that 26 year old Dez Bryant is referring to when mentioning he wants a long term deal.
The Cowboys franchise takes a risk because when a player goes on injured reserve, that player’s full salary cap figure counts against his team’s salary cap unless otherwise specified in the player’s contract. Does anyone believe that Spencer gave the Cowboys a rebate of his $10.6 million salary for the games that he missed?
The competitive nature of the NFL is another reason contracts are hard to get negotiated. The players begin by competing to get drafted higher than others. They fight in the NFL combine and in rookie camps to get a roster spot. Cowboy Nation enjoys watching them compete on the field because we get fantasy points. Finally, they compete to see who’s going to get the biggest or best contract.
In a different world, Bryant could look in the mirror and ask, “Could I be content playing for the Dallas Cowboys while earning $50 million over the next four years?” (Heads up: I pulled those numbers out of thin air.) If the answer was yes, then he’d sign the contract, grab his lunch box and report to work while singing Happy by Pharrell Williams. With the NFL, that’s not how it works. Bryant and his agent(s) wants to see what Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones and Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green might earn first.
So show Bryant the money – and I’m sure he’ll sign on the dotted line. Just as long as it’s $.01 more than any other NFL receiver’s salary. If that’s the case, then fair market value, security and the love of the game have nothing to do with getting a contract done – it’s a simple combination of competition creating and feeding egos plus greed.
Find me at Facebook.com/CowboysRob