The Dallas Cowboys defeated wide receiver Dez Bryant with seconds remaining on the clock in locking up their primary offensive weapon for the long haul.
Some said it wasn’t possible, but others were sure that it would be the Cowboys that would eventually cave in.
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Make no mistake: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones knew exactly what he was doing here in intentionally using the promise of the team’s franchise tag as leverage that the former Oklahoma State pass-catcher simply couldn’t overcome.
It didn’t matter how good Bryant is on fade routes. Unimportant was the size of his hands.
This boiled down to a game of “gotcha” at the last minute, Bryant’s side really only yapping about collusion charges potentially levied against America’s Team and the Denver Broncos.
See, Dallas knew that Bryant needed the money, at least according to some sources – I’ll bet my life this is very, very true, despite the fact that Bryant had already pocketed well more than $10 million during his initial five seasons in the National Football League.
Jones and Co. also knew that there was really no way that Bryant would miss any football games this season. Regardless of how competitive Bryant is known to be, the reality is that missing games would have cost him around three-quarters of a million bucks for each pouting session.
That’s a bit steep.
And then, of course, is Bryant’s competitive nature and his love for playing football.
In the end, five years and $70 million came down to one thing and one thing only: Take $45 million in guaranteed money right now, or take $13 million, as offered in whole by the legal parameters of the franchise tag.
Most kindergarten students can figure out the math here.
Most importantly, the Cowboys, and the NFL, served notice that the wide receiver position is not worth the ridiculous contracts signed by players like Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals in recent seasons.
Obviously the Cowboys can expect to take the field on Week 1 with one of the league’s top offenses, a measure of continuity that hasn’t generally befallen a franchise with a rather rich history of great offenses.
The distraction of Bryant not being in camp has obviously been eliminated and this is a major plus for a team that has every reason to believe that it could reach the Super Bowl next February in northern California.
I’ve never been in favor of pro athletes being underpaid while billionaires pocket a disproportionate amount of the profits earned in any league, conference or association.
At the same time, I’ve also never liked to hear a given athlete verbally expressing his desire to earn a given amount of money simply because another player already earned it, for whatever the reason.
In the NFL, you have to pay for both the past and the future – that’s how the sad era of the salary cap goes, and this is why Bryant isn’t the highest paid receiver in NFL history. It’s also the reason that defending NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray is prepping for training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles this year, as opposed to the team that drafted him.
Perhaps one day the league will wise-up a tad and implement some kind of “Bird Rights” exemption that allows its teams to build and stay built for a longer period of time, much like they could in the era preceding free agency, which launched in 1993.
Until then, the franchise tag is a serious piece of negotiating leverage that helps keep the market somewhat reasonable for every position in football. I’m not saying that I agree with that mechanism completely, but I know why it’s there and until something better comes along, like the NFL back in Los Angeles, for example, this is the deal.
Bryant now understands the game – and so does Denver counterpart Demaryius Thomas, by the way.