After a lot of offseason talk about re-signing Dez Bryant to the roster, could the Dallas Cowboys simply find a new version of Dez in the draft instead?
This offseason, the talk concerning the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver corps has mainly circled two players. One receiver who is currently on the roster … and one who isn’t.
After trading a first-round selection midway through the 2018 regular season to the Oakland Raiders for him, wide receiver Amari Cooper has put up back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in Dallas. And his expiring rookie contract, as well as that of quarterback Dak Prescott, garnered much of the media attention this offseason. In the end, both Prescott and Cooper were retained for next season, Dak on the franchise tag and Amari on a new five-year, $100 million deal.
The Cowboys did end up losing starting slot receiver Randall Cobb to the Houston Texans in free agency, creating a void the team has yet to fill. But Cooper and third-year receiver Michael Gallup combined for a nice one-two punch on the outside for the foreseeable future.
Yet, the supporting cast beyond Coop and Gallup could certainly use an upgrade. Familiar names like Cedrick Wilson, Devin Smith, Jon’Vea Johnson, Noah Brown, and Ventell Bryant will likely battle it out this summer in front of a new coaching staff for supporting roles.
The Cowboys have yet to sign a veteran receiver in free agency sparking speculation that the team might choose to address those needs in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. And that would certainly make sense as this year’s receiver class could go down as one of the best in league history.
Still, that hasn’t stop media and fans alike speculating about possible free-agent additions at the position. And the name that seems to be constantly connected to the Cowboys in the headlines is Dez Bryant.
And that appears to be by design as the 31-year old wide receiver has expressed his interest in rejoining the team that once traded up to draft him 24th overall back in 2010. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones even admitted to considering a reunion with Bryant during an interview at the Scouting Combine in February.
During his eight-year career in Dallas, Bryant racked up 531 receptions for 7,459 yards and a franchise-leading 73 receiving touchdowns. Unfortunately, the former first-rounder only brought in 52.3 percent of his targets in his final season with the Cowboys, posting 69 receptions on a team-high 132 targets for 838 yards and six scores. Complicating matters is the fact Bryant suffered a torn Achilles two days after inking a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints last November.
But murmurs about Bryant possibly returning to Dallas seemed to cool as the NFL draft neared. Then videos began appearing on social media of the free-agent receiver working out with Prescott, reigniting that speculation. Still, it seems unlikely that Dallas would sign anyone between now and the upcoming draft, electing instead to wait to fill any possible voids following the results of the annual selection event.
And it’s during the draft where America’s Team might find themselves a newer version of Dez. Here’s who Gil Brandt, former Cowboys executive, current senior analyst for NFL Media, and Hall of Famer recently compared to Bryant in the upcoming draft class.
"“[CeeDee] Lamb was a beast with the ball in his hands, collecting 376 yards after contact (third-most in FBS) and 683 yards after the catch and forcing 26 missed tackles (second-most among receivers in FBS) … To me, Lamb is a Dez Bryant lookalike — though Bryant had a bigger upper body and was a stronger guy, they have similar mannerisms on the field.”"
On Thursday’s episode of the FS1 show, Undisputed, Skip Bayless proclaimed he’d be Super Bowl ecstatic if the Cowboys decided to draft Lamb 17th overall. As a 6-foot-2, 189-pound junior last year, the former Oklahoma Sooner posted 62 receptions for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 21.4 yards per catch.
During his last full season at Oklahoma State in 2008, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant recorded 87 catches for 1,480 yards and 19 scores while averaging 17.0 yards per reception as a sophomore. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Lamb’s play more to former longtime Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.
While there’s an argument to be made that there’s a big enough need on the Dallas Cowboys’ current wide receiver depth chart for both Dez Bryant and CeeDee Lamb, either actually being on the roster come September could be a pipe dream.
Although Jeff Cavanaugh of 105.3 The Fan believes Bryant could work as the team’s fourth wide receiver in addition to drafting a rookie wideout in the upcoming draft, it’s unclear whether the team’s new coaching staff feels the same way. And considering the other needs along their roster, the Cowboys using their first-round selection on Lamb (who likely doesn’t fall that far anyway) could be nothing more than wishful thinking as well.