The Dallas Cowboys finally did what everybody expected them to do - they used the franchise tag on Dez Bryant. Hardly surprising, the star wide receiver will now be in line to make $12.8 million for the 2015 season. That comes from the average salary of the top five wide receivers in the league. The Cowboys have used the non-exclusive franchise tag meaning any other team can negotiate with Bryant until July 15th, and if they sign him the Cowboys can either match the deal, or receive two first-round draft picks if they let him leave. The potential for Bryant leaving is close to nil, so expect Dez Bryant to line up for the Cowboys in 2015.
Now the game turns toward a long-term deal for Dez, something both sides want but they have yet to find the magic middle ground that will allow it to happen. There is an expectation that the two parties will eventually come to an agreement, but can they pull it off by July 15th of this year? Smart money would be on the fact that they can. Whatever is going on behind the scenes, on the field the Cowboys have a known commodity that is as good as any in the league. Bryant is also at that point where peak physical condition is matched with veteran wisdom to give a player his "prime years". Contrast that with what is happening with DeMarco Murray and running backs in general, their prime years are their first three or four, after that the fear of burnout is very real. Bryant, as a receiver, is ready for a string of "consistent domination" years. The Cowboys will eventually have to give him what he wants, they are counting on Romo for five more years, they would be wise to give him Dez for those years.
The two parties now have until July 15th to come to an agreement. In the meantime, Dez could meet with other teams if they're willing. But the idea of a team signing Dez to a big enough contract that the Cowboys wouldn't match, while also giving up two first-round picks seems, very unlikely.
Dez Bryant will be in Dallas in 2015, but will DeMarco Murray?