Dallas Cowboys and Dez Bryant: How things have changed

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Richard Sherman
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Richard Sherman /

After one week of crazy spending in free agency, one prominent Dallas Cowboys wide receiver looks like a bargain after once being considered overpaid.

Over the past three weeks or so, those within the Dallas Cowboys organization and those who just care a lot about this team have been at odds.

One, extremely prominent, lightning rod of an individual has been at the forefront of a lot of speculation. That man is wide receiver Dez Bryant.

On one hand, there are those, including perceivably executive vice president Stephen Jones who believe his time in Dallas could be ending. The other side thinks this talk is ridiculous buffoonery at minimum. A grievous error in its totality.

Here’s where irony steps in and makes sense of everything.

Free agency, also commonly known as the time of year when Cowboys fans hate their own existence, has been helpful in one aspect.

Thanks to the open market, Dez Bryant’s contract immediately looks a whole lot better.

I suppose you can still have issues with his production over the past three years, regardless of obvious reasons. This article is not about that. I’ve discussed this topic ad nauseum.

What is now true is simple.  You can no longer say that the Cowboys should force Bryant to take a pay cut or cut him. That leverage died by Thursday.

Take a look at the money that teams have given some free agents already, just a few days into free agency:

Sammy WatkinsLARKC3 yrs, $48M, $30M guaranteed
Allen RobinsonJAXCHI3 yrs, $42M, guaranteed $ undisclosed
Paul RichardsonSEAWAS5 yrs, $40M, $16.5M guaranteed
Albert WilsonKC MIA3 yrs, $24M, guaranteed $ undisclosed

Bryant, meanwhile, is heading into his fourth year of a five year deal for $70M, $45M of which is guaranteed. Bryant is going to make $12.5M in 2018 if he remains with the team. His cap hit will be $16.5M.

Now, let’s look at those four players, along with Bryant, and their production over the past three years.

Sammy Watkins351272,07019$7.8M
Allen Robinson331542,30020
Paul Richardson32661,0317$4.0M
Albert Wilson431081,2847
Dez Bryant381502,03517


While Bryant does make the most of these six, he’s also four years deep into his deal. Everyone’s first year is basically a free year for the team.  The player gets a big signing bonus and a veteran minimum while the team gets cap flexibility. There’s also a little thing called history that comes into play here.

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Aside from Bryant, Robinson would have the most impressive history. He’s at least had one 1,000 yard season and 1 double digit touchdown performance.  Watkins has just one 1,000+ yard season but has never had 10+ touchdowns in a season.

Richardson’s previous best season was 703 yards and 6 TDs. Wilson? 554 yards and 3 TDs.

All of this does not even take into account that Baltimore was going to give Ryan Grant $14.5M guaranteed and $29M over four years.  Ryan Grant, whose career best numbers of 573 yards and 4 TDs would be a normal month for Bryant.

Dez has three career 1,000+ yard seasons and three double-digit touchdown campaigns. Part of mining for potential is to factor in what someone is capable of doing. Bryant is capable of being dominant if he is healthy physically and has an accurate quarterback throwing him the ball.

There is also this fun little fact.

Bryant, is in his worst three year stretch as a professional still measures favorably to four guys, all of whom, have had a career year recently.

Look, if you want to believe that Dez makes too much money, commiserate with his performance, that’s your prerogative. Just remember that if Dallas were to do something stupid like cut him, Bryant would make much more from his new team.

Bryant would also very likely choose a team with a quarterback that would love to have a weapon like him.

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The smart thing here is to give Dez Bryant one more chance to prove he can be that guy from 2012-14. If Bryant can, then you extend him and get cap relief next year. If he can’t, you cut him and only have $4M of dead money, but save $12.5M towards the 2019 cap.