When we were hoping that something positive would get done in the negotiations between the Dallas Cowboys and Dez Bryant over a long-term contract, this was the last things we wanted to see. As the day wore on, things would become more confusing. Here are the sometimes differing takes on what was going on.
The original report came from Ed Werder, who stated that Bryant made an ultimatum of sorts in a phone call last week with Stephen Jones.
According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Bryant called Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones last week to inform him he will not be at training camp and will miss regular-season games if he does not have a long-term deal in placed by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
After that initial report, gloom and doom was the order of the day. Then Stephen Jones weighed in, denying that Bryant made any threats to him.
Considering the original report said it happened in a conversation with Jones, now we have to wonder whether it was said and misunderstood, or not said at all.
Maybe Bryant did and maybe he didn't, but at this stage, it's clear the Cowboys don't consider it a serious threat.
Bryant then added some fuel to the fire with his own tweet that he would not show if he did not get a new deal. He is believed to have made an additional argument about why he deserved more than the team is apparently offering.
But Bryant also made the argument that he has proved himself to be the top receiver in the league over the past five years and should be compensated accordingly.
However, one thing was not very clear in all this, and that was just when exactly Bryant was not planning to show up. Was he talking about actually missing games at a cost to him of about $750,000 each, or was he just planning on staying away from the opening of training camp in Oxnard? And even if he was talking about missing games, would he actually follow through?
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Bryant and Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones spoke last week. It was a private, cordial conversation. During that conversation, Bryant did not specifically say that he was going to miss regular season games, according to a high level Cowboys source.
Missing training camp is barely news. It happens with some players every season. Missing regular season games is a much different story. No unsigned franchise player since 2002 (Walter Jones) has skipped regular season work, so Bryant would be breaking the mold. "Intending" to skip games is a lot easier than following through with the plan. (Especially for a player that struggled to stay away from OTAs and minicamp this offseason.)
It is hard to see what Bryant thinks he can gain by sitting out games, since he is locked into playing under the franchise tag if the deadline on Wednesday afternoon passes without a long-term deal being inked. The team is apparently sticking with the position expressed by Jerry Jones during the minicamp last month.
"If we're still in a franchise situation with Dez, I have no doubt that he'll be leading the way against the New York Giants," Jones said at the time. "We just know how competitive Dez is and how much he wants to beat the Giants and how much he wants to support his teammates."
Based on the selection of tweets sampled in both the above articles, the sentiment is clearly with Bryant, even though the frequently expressed "pay the man" disregards the salary cap implications that the team simply cannot.
It is looking more and more like we may not know about the contract until the 4 PM ET deadline tomorrow. And there are going to be fans glued to their computers and mobile devices. How might things play out? This is a look at the parties involved.
But the big question is — who will budge first?
The way I see it there are four different groups involved in the negotiation, despite what you hear.
Group 1 - Dez's Representatives - trying to get money for Dez
Group 2 - Stephen Jones - trying to save money for Cowboys and trusted by Jerry to make this deal happen
Group 3 - Dez Bryant - wants to play football and be paid
Group 4 - Jerry Jones - wants legacy, wins, fans happiness and will ultimately close
That's the order in which I think those involved might pick up the phone first. But whom I think is going to be the most important factor is Bryant himself.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos have finally made a contract offer to Demaryius Thomas after playing hardball with him for months. He is seen as the key other wide receiver in setting the market, which is a major consideration in the negotiations in both Dallas and Denver.
We all know Demaryius Thomas has the guts to go across the middle to catch passes.
But does the Denver Broncos' star receiver have the courage to reject a long-term contract offer that would make him the NFL's second-highest paid receiver by a wide margin?
Here is the key: Thomas has repeatedly said he wants to be the highest paid receiver in the league, so this may be a dead issue for him. But if he does take the deal, it immediately sets that market.
There was some other Cowboys news going on, although you may have overlooked it.
While Bryant is considering not reporting in Oxnard, the situation for Greg Hardy is much different. He needs all the preparation the team can give him.
He played in one game last season. He was inactive for the second game and moved to the commissioner's exempt list for the final 14 games of the season.
During the upcoming training camp practices, Hardy needs to get as much work as possible. He needs to work inside and outside to help get rid of the rust that has to accumulate from missing so much time. His work in the offseason program helped but was not enough.
And in the preseason games, he needs to play. Maybe he doesn't need to play every game, but he needs to get time against various offensive linemen. The two days of practice in training camp against the St. Louis Rams will also help.
Hardy is part of the equation, but not the only important one.
Bryan Broaddus: I think the bigger question, is "Can this be a Top 10 scoring defense?" Every defensive coach that I have ever worked with, they were never worried about the yards, but were always focusing on the points given up and Rod Marinelli is no different. For Marinelli, it has always been about points and turnovers. With new additions that were made to the roster in the offseason, he will be able to focus on just that. With Greg Hardy, Byron Jones and Randy Gregory, I feel like this defense will be better from a scheme standpoint. Throw in the return of Sean Lee, and I think opponents will have a difficult time getting the ball into the end zone.
Although the Bryant issue may or may not be resolved by the time camp comes around, there are certainly going to be many other interesting stories, and the battle for the fifth wide receiver may be one of the most competitive.
Baylor has become a receiver pipeline of sorts for the Cowboys. Terrance Williams was drafted in the third round in 2013 and developed into a solid starter. Goodley doesn't have Williams' size, but he's an excellent athlete with playmaking ability. The Cowboys have an opening at backup receiver/returner now that Dwayne Harris is a Giant.
The NFLPA letter containing the collusion claims against the Broncos and Cowboys (re: Dez/Demaryius negotiations) went to the clubs today.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 13, 2015