With Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones admitting he’s had ‘shower thoughts’ about bringing Dez Bryant back, does a reunion actually make sense?
Last week, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones admitted to thinking “a lot” about signing former wide receiver Dez Bryant. Yes, the same Dez Bryant that was cut unceremoniously from the team after the 2017 season and reportedly left with the threat that he would exact his revenge as a division rival.
Could Jerry Jones really be entertaining the thought of bringing the now 31-year-old receiver back for a second go at it? Would it even make sense?
In my heart, I want to say yes. I love Dez Bryant. I love the passion he brought to the game, even if it was accompanied by some drama. I love the idea of a fairy tale reunion in which the embattled wide receiver, coming off a torn Achilles tendon, has a dramatic comeback season with the team that took a chance on him in the 2010 NFL Draft.
But these are dreams. Probably the same dreams Jerry Jones admitted to having in the shower about Dez Bryant.
Despite some impressive workout videos and an eagerness to prove himself, Dez Bryant is no longer the Pro Bowl receiver he was during his prime in Dallas. That’s not to say he wouldn’t provide value to a team that signs him now, however. Assuming Jerry Jones could convince new head coach Mike McCarthy on Bryant — and that’s a big if — I do believe that the veteran wide receiver could be of service to the team.
The general consensus when Bryant was nearing the end of his tenure in Dallas was that for him to extend his future in the NFL, he would have to accept more of role working from the slot — something Larry Fitzgerald had to do in Arizona (and found success with). The idea was that Bryant, who struggled to get separation from elite cornerbacks in one-on-one situations, would be better suited working the middle of the field against zone coverage.
That’s still sort of the belief. DallasCowboys.com writer David Helman even acknowledged that Bryant’s size could create a “mismatch against nickel backs and safeties, particularly in the red zone.”
The Cowboys attempted to replace Cole Beasley’s slot production with Randall Cobb in 2019. Cobb, who signed a one-year deal for $5 million, was third on the team with 828 receiving yards, behind only Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
Cobb is a free agent though and will likely seek more money after a productive season with the Cowboys. Dallas could probably sign Bryant at a cheaper price but there’s no guarantee he will put up those kind of numbers. It’s possible though.
It would certainly be a risky gamble, but it could pay off in the end. Depending on the numbers, it could also give the Cowboys more flexibility to sign Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott, their two biggest free agents this offseason.
Alternatively, Bryant could return to his role as the X receiver. By no means do I think he could replace the production of Amari Cooper in that role, but I do think he could open things up further for the 25-year-old Pro Bowl receiver. By Bryant playing the X receiver, it would free Cooper to line up in the slot more often, a role that many analysts believe he could excel in.
Cooper’s dominance as a slot receiver has been well-documented, but he’s often been underutilized in the position. Cooper’s efficiency in the slot has been compared to the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adam Thielen. Prior to the 2019 season, USA Today wrote about Cooper’s success in the slot:
"As a slot receiver, Cooper cashed in his 14 targets for 11 receptions, 203 yards, and two TDs. His yards-per-route run (Y/RR) from the slot last season, a metric which reflects a receiver’s efficiency, was an extremely healthy 3.12 in 2018."
The general consensus is that Cooper would thrive in the position. The emergence of Michael Gallup as a deep threat could open things up for Cooper in the future. And with Cobb possibly gone, there’s certainly more flexibility.
I don’t think Dez Bryant is a necessity to for the Cowboys to explore moving Cooper to slot, but I do think he could provide some value at this stage of his career. Beyond the possible mismatches he could cause, Bryant’s knowledge of the position could be valuable to a relatively young receiving corps.
Under the right circumstance, I could say a Dez Bryant and Dallas Cowboys reunion make sense. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen. With Bryant’s injury history and media attention his mere presence commands, I don’t think McCarthy will want to deal with that in his first season as head coach.