Recently, I've been reading quite a few comments from Cowboys fans about parting ways with Dez Bryant. The general sentiment revolves around three propositions. The first would require going up the board on draft day and trading for Jadeveon Clowney. Most people agree that this approach would not only cost Dallas their best offensive weapon but possibly a premium pick in next year’s draft. I’ll discuss this point in greater detail later on.
The second idea is to trade Dez for draft picks at some point between now and the cutoff for trades in training camp or at the beginning of the season (perhaps after a team loses their primary receiver to a season ending injury). If the team was set on the idea of trading Bryant, I can only assume the front office, and especially Jason Garrett, would prefer to dispose of Dez on draft day, using the premium picks to bolster the team’s currently deficient defense. It is also my assumption that many teams near the top of the draft would be interested in a proven asset of Bryant’s pedigree. Possible trading partners would consist of the Minnesota Vikings at No. 8, Buffalo at No. 9, or St. Louis Rams at No 13. If Jerry were to pull the trigger on a trade, we can only hope that Dez is acquired by an AFC team, preferably one that Dallas seldom plays.
The final proposition, assuming a trade can’t be negotiated, is simply to let him walk after his contract expires. Why? Because it’s predicated on the belief that he's not worth the mega contract that Jerry Jones would have to give him in order to stop some other team from swooping in and paying Dez market price, whatever number that might be. The thinking is, because the team has so many holes to fill and limited resources to fill them, investing so much money in a receiver simply isn’t prudent. Seattle showed the league that a team doesn’t need a premium wideout to win, just a talented defense and an efficient offense to complement it. There might be a little confirmation bias at play here but that’s beyond the purview of this write-up and a topic for another day.
I think we can agree that Bryant will cost Dallas or another team at least 11 million. That figure may be a conservative number for a player with Bryant's production, considering the way he impacts each and every game, making the players around him so much better, even if his numbers aren’t all that impressive at the conclusion of play. Almost since Day 1, Bryant has been a 60-minute serial killer of the game plans of defensive coordinators and the confidence of cornerbacks alike. This homegrown Texas man-child and inheritor of a rare and elusive football gene is more than capable of putting up Madden-like stats when he’s the rock toting focal point of the ball game. Dez is one of those special players who commands attention and respect on the gridiron, and woe betide the team that underestimates his jaw-dropping agility, explosiveness, and power to take over a game at the drop of a helmet.
Speaking of impressive stats that may reach out and grab you, the kind of numbers that demonstrate, in 200-decibel surround sound, what Bryant truly means to the team since he rocketed into the league just four years ago, Bryant has accumulated nearly 300 receptions, 4,100 yards and 40 touchdowns. Only one player in NFL history has bested Bryant’s production in his first four seasons as a wideout- soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss. That’s pretty good company by any measure.
Considering the concern that so many teams had about Bryant when he came into the league (he did have enough baggage to fill a tractor-trailer past capacity), I wonder if Jerry Jones feels somewhat vindicated for taking a chance with Dez and seeing it pay off so lucratively. In this instance, he proved his GM acumen on a grand scale. For all his mistakes over the years, one must give the Cowboys owner his due for lassoing Bryant in 2010. The road may have been rocky at the onset of his career, but as of today, Bryant has upheld the legacy of #88 quite well, and many experts believe Bryant has yet to reach his full potential, as terrifying to other teams as that must be.
But I do agree that fixing the defense is crucial for Dallas. The team must have at least two really solid drafts if they have any aspirations of returning to prominence during the Tony Romo era. The club won't win many games until Dallas finds impact players on the tackling side of the ball, especially along the defensive line. But I maintain that a team can afford to pay the price for an elite receiver, much like Seattle did last off-season with Percy Harvin, and still win- but only if the club drafts well. Some will say Seattle’s success is due to having a good QB on a rookie contract. That may be true. It remains to be seen if the team will have the same success when Russell Wilson’s first deal expires. I just think Dallas can follow a similar path, focusing on saving money by drafting productive, rookie defensive starters, good, solid role players, and a handful of legitimate stars with big contracts.
We’ve recently seen that scooping up players via free agency, like Dallas did with Brandon Carr, is a losing proposition almost every time. The draft is, of course, the key. And letting players the caliber of a Dez Bryant walk is just asinine. He's a cornerstone. His stats prove as much. Getting back to the first point about trading Dez and moving up to the top of the draft, it’s a bad idea on many levels, as I touched upon earlier. Clowney might sound like the end-all be-all right now but he's still unproven. You know how many sacks he accumulated last season? Three! Three sacks. That should be a red flag. One has to wonder, does the kid have the motor to compete to the checkered flag? Or will he coast through the game after signing his rookie check? Who can say? I don't know how old most of you are, but back in 1994, I remember another can't miss player that everyone raved about due to his college career and his combine workout. Heck, I drooled over the guy, as well, envisioning what he could do in a Cowboys uniform. In hindsight, that would have been a big mistake.
The info below is taken from directly Wikipedia:
In workouts prior to the draft, Wilkinson weighed in at 315 pounds, bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times and ran a remarkably fast 40 yards in 4.72 seconds. "Wilkinson could be a once-in-10-years player," said Billy Devaney, then San Diego Chargers' director of player personnel. Also described as "maybe the best defensive-line prospect since Reggie White [in 1985]," Wilkinson drew a lot of interest from around the league. Several teams were willing to trade with the Cincinnati Bengals for the No. 1 draft pick, including the New England Patriots, who reportedly offered their first-round pick (4th overall), plus several players including offensive guard Eugene Chung (their first-round choice in 1992), and the Arizona Cardinals, who offered their pick plus running back Garrison Hearst (their 1993 first-rounder). Eventually, the Bengals decided to keep the pick, and decided not to selected a quarterback, since they already picked David Klingler in 1992."
Dan Wilkinson played for the Bengals for exactly four years before they dumped him, primarily for lack of production. He went on to have a slightly above average career, not the spectacular, Hall-of-Fame one many experts predicted. I used this guy as a cautionary tale. NO ONE knows how a player's game will translate to the pros. That's a fact that goes w/out saying. On the other hand, Dez is a proven commodity. GMs don't part ways with those kinds of players without putting an incredible amount of thought into it. Make a mistake like that and you’ll be an analyzer on ESPN before you can wrap your head around your abrupt dismissal (obviously this doesn’t apply to every GM).
Fortunately for Dallas, the people agitating for the release (or trade) of Bryant aren’t building the team with the same set of blueprints as Jerry Jones. Whether he’s once again vindicated by future Super Bowl success, with Dez Bryant playing an active role in the process, will only be revealed down the road. First, Dallas must build a more complete team around Tony, Dez, Jason, Tyron, Lee, Frederick, Bailey, and Murray, the building blocks of the Dallas Cowboys (you’ll notice how many of those players are, sadly, offensive oriented).
Like many of you, I'm concerned about Bryant’s back. But what people might not be considering is just how many doctors are currently studying his MRIs, and if he hasn’t had one, he certainly will be fully vetted before Jerry, or anyone else, hands him set-for-life money. The doctors will either sign off on him with a clean bill of health or warn Jones that Bryant’s back is a real issue. With this data in hand, Jerry will be well informed regarding the current and future health of Bryant before giving him that mega contract fans are worried about.
As much as I'd love to get Dez for 7 or 8 million, a number I’ve heard quite a few Cowboys faithful espousing, it’s simply not realistic. Victor Cruz pocketed that kind of money, and I assume most of you (who aren’t Giants fans), would agree that Cruz isn’t in Bryant's class. Former Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace was paid 11 million per year, and, in my opinion, he's not much more than a one trick pony. Jerry knows what Dez is worth, down to the penny, and the figure will be at least 10 million per season. We can only hope that Jones’ thoughts aren’t clouded by his sometimes-unhealthy love affair with ultra-talented wide receivers, as he’s shown in the past on a number of occasions (the names Terrell, Roy, and Joey spring to mind as prime examples).
If his back isn't an issue and Dez continues to demonstrate good behavior and outstanding production on the field, along with budding leadership and inspirational attributes needed in the clubhouse and on the practice field, one can bank on the fact that Jones will pay Bryant market price, whatever that may be. As far as the people who are canvassing for the release or trade of Bryant, I often wonder if they understand just how important he is to the offense. Losing him would be an incredibly major blow and the kind of setback that could potentially keep the team’s Super Bowl designs an unfinished product.