Are the Dallas Cowboys planning for life without Dez Bryant?

Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) before the game against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) before the game against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Are the Dallas Cowboys silently making moves  or not making them to prepare themselves for a future without wide receiver Dez Bryant?

As most know, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was released as a post-June 1st cut earlier this month. This designation saves the Cowboys $14 million against their salary cap this coming year.

Since the Cowboys have been strapped for cap space the past few years, they have been restructuring Romo’s contract. Which, in turn, kept pushing more and more money back. Of course, this wasn’t a problem as Tony was the franchise quarterback and virtually irreplaceable.

That was until Romo was replaced by current Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott as suddenly Tony became expendable. And all that money that was pushed back due to restructuring Romo’s contract suddenly came due.

Now, a former player that will be in the booth as a color commentator for CBS will count $10.7 million against the Cowboys salary cap this year and $8.9 million in 2018. So how does any of this pertain to wide receiver Dez Bryant possibly being on his way out of Dallas?

The Cowboys were up against the cap limit once again this offseason so they restructured the contracts of linebacker Sean Lee, center Travis Frederick and left tackle Tyron Smith. Still, the space generated by re-doing these deals wasn’t nearly enough to fill the holes on defense, especially in the secondary.

And the $14 million in cap space relief that came as a result of releasing Romo will not be available until after the draft in June. But honestly, those monies were desperately needed back in March when the Cowboys were losing key players to free agency and there was no way to stop the bleeding.

With the needs piling up and money running low, why wasn’t Bryant’s contract restructured as well? I believe it’s because the Cowboys may be preparing for a future without Dez.

There’s no question the athletic ability with Bryant is off the charts. But with that comes many concerns.

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Bryant hasn’t played a full season in two years. And in each he failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards or 10 touchdowns. In fact, Dez has played in seven seasons and only managed to best those numbers three times.

The Cowboys are paying Bryant like an elite wide receiver. Yet, since the signing of his five-year, $70 million back in 2015, he has failed to meet those expectations. Whether it be health reasons or just plain failure to produce, the Cowboys should not make the same financial mistakes with Bryant as they did with Romo.

By not restructuring Bryant’s contract, the Cowboys are eating up their salary cap space early rather than adding money to the remaining years of his contract. With those monies being spread out, the cap hit wouldn’t change significantly in the following years.

Issues start to arise when a contract continues to be restructured over several seasons. And the increase in dead money becomes a serious problem if said player is released before his contract expires.

A prime example is Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford. The underperforming defender is also eligible for a contract restructure. But Crawford hasn’t received one, even though it would allow Dallas to gain some much needed cap space right now.

Crawford signed a massive six-year, $45.6 million deal back in 2015. But the Cowboys refusal to touch his contract is certainly understandable since his play has declined dramatically and they wouldn’t want to increase the amount of dead money they’d have to pay if he is released within the next year or two.

Do the same concerns arise when Cowboy executives contemplate Bryant’s future with the team?

Now, Dallas’ front office may have changed their ways, becoming more frugal in their decision-making. But if there is so much confidence in Bryant and such a need for salary cap space, why is there hesitation to restructure Dez’s contract?

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The Dallas Cowboys’ reluctance to adjust Dez Bryant’s contract could be the first sign hinting at a future without him in Dallas. With the NFL Draft mere days away, the Cowboys next step may be to select a receiver in the early rounds. If not this year, maybe in 2018.