One of the biggest question marks of the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys is what will they do with wide receiver Dez Bryant? If you follow the team enough, you know the options and the reasons why Dallas might keep, release or come to a compromise (pay cut) with Bryant. So what should the Cowboys do?
Based on the comments from Stephen Jones, there is a real possibility that Bryant won’t be back. It could be a smokescreen to get Dez back at a reduced rate. However, if you listen to Jerry Jones, Bryant will no doubt return for a ninth season in Dallas. It’s important to not take things as Gospel at this time during the offseason, everyone is posturing.
Over the weekend, Dez responded with a passionate interview on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. Bryant was all sorts of fired up and made it clear he wants to remain with the Cowboys and return to his Pro Bowl form.
There are a number of factors that go into making the decision on Bryant, other than money. Dez might not be a top five or 10 wide receiver anymore, but those types of labels don’t really matter. More importantly, Bryant is still a number one receiver in this league and for the Cowboys. Debate his effectiveness all you want (we will here), but Bryant still commands significant attention from defenses and the Cowboys depend on Dez quite a bit in the passing game.
Dez led the team in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns last season and is an absolute red zone monster. He also is one of the best in the league when he gets the ball in his hands with open space. He has never been a pure speedster who gains a ton of separation, but Dez excels on jump balls, back shoulder throws and makes contested catches.
Last year wasn’t his finest as a Cowboy, but Bryant still showed signs of being a dominant receiver. His touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Washington Redskins proved there is plenty left in his tank. And if the unreported knee injury really did affect Dez last season, there is reason to believe he can still play.
The real issues are the chemistry between Dez Bryant and quarterback Dak Prescott, as well as the playbook, which Dez has no control over. It felt like the duo was hitting their stride late in 2016, but that momentum never continued into last year. There were miscommunications between the two and several uncatchable passes thrown in Bryant’s direction. Clearly, the two need work together, but it’s something they can accomplish. However, Dez didn’t help himself with drops in 2017 and needs more consistency.
So where does it all leave the Cowboys and Dez Bryant? The cost to keep him without any restructures is $16.5 million, which ranks near the top of wide receivers in annual salary. It’s a pretty penny, but what is the alternative if Bryant won’t take a pay cut? The Cowboys don’t have another receiver capable of garnering the attention Dez gets and they would be sorely lacking for weapons at receiver. They could draft a guy at 19, possibly Calvin Ridley, but it’s tough to ask a rookie to play at the level of Bryant in his first season. Nor are there any stud receivers that are going to be available in free agency.
The bottom line is that Dez Bryant should return to the Cowboys. Bryant still has the ability to be a very good receiver and dominate games, but he needs to grind it out with Dak Prescott during the offseason. The Cowboys also need to find better ways to get him the ball, with fresh concepts and having a new wide receiver coach should help.
With no resolution in sight, the situation will remain one of the biggest stories of the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys. But the answer is pretty simple, the Cowboys need to keep Dez Bryant.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi