When the Cowboys started letting veterans go this offseason, only to replace them with some bargain-basement contracts, they had one thing in mind - signing a couple of their most valuable assets to long-term contract extensions. Dallas does not want to see either Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith hit the open market in free agency; their plan is to negotiate deals that will keep both players in the organization through their prime years.
They have already started the preliminary talks with Dez Bryant. The wide receiver is in the final year of his rookie contract and is obviously due a huge raise. His agent, Eugene Parker, has talked with the Cowboys about the contours of a new deal. And just what might those contours look like? Dez believes, and rightly so, that he should be paid like the top receivers in the league.
Dez Bryant believes he has earned the right to rank among the NFL's highest-paid wide receivers and hopes to sign a long-term contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys before the season begins.
"Yeah, I deserve it," Bryant told ESPNDallas.com. "I deserve it. I feel like I do. I put the work in, but I let that kind of stuff take care of itself. It is what it is. I let my agent talk about it and give me some feedback."
So what do the top guys at his position get?
Chicago's Brandon Marshall signed a three-year, $30 million extension last week that made him the seventh wide receiver that has a contract with an average annual value of at least $10 million, joining Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Seattle's Percy Harvin, Miami's Mike Wallace, Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe and Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson.
All of those receivers except for Harvin have at least $20 million guaranteed in their deals, a financial milestone also met in the contract of Houston's Andre Johnson.
We knew it wasn't going to be cheap. But that is why the Cowboys finally started to make the hard decisions about some of their veterans (DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Miles Austin), they know that signing Bryant and Tyron Smith to extensions is critical as both players are young and are just now hitting the magical "second contract" when players are in their prime. Usually it's the "third contract" where you can get in trouble.
But hey, how about a discount, Dez?
"I'm loyal to the squad," Bryant said. "I've always been. Me and my agent are going to talk about [a hometown discount]. We'll talk about it. You know, this is big. This is life changing. Like I said, I've done everything asked of me, and we'll see what happens."
Whatever happens, it's a guarantee that the Cowboys will extend Dez at some point.