On Tuesday this week, we heard that a Dez Bryant deal was "imminent", and today we got word from Mike Fisher at CBS DFW that a deal could be announced as early as Monday,
Sources tell me [Bryant's] wait is almost over, the two sides having moved to such a negotiating comfort level that there is discussion about announcing a done deal following the July 4 weekend.
[...] And the optimism is high enough to essentially agree to take a break from talks during the holiday weekend.
I’m told all involved need clarity about how the guaranteed portion of the deal will be paid (when, as well as which parts are "virtual guarantees’’) but otherwise reports of negativity and conflict are about as real as the Dez Walmart Unicorn Video.
Jerry Jones has been very clear from the start that the Cowboys intended to make Bryant a Cowboy for life, even if that meant using the franchise tag on him as they worked towards a long-term deal. From a Cowboys perspective, there were two critical aspects that a potential deal needed to address.
The first is the impact of Bryant's contract on the salary cap. The Cowboys need the contract to be a long-term contract, probably at least seven years, perhaps even more. They need such a contract because signing bonuses are only allowed to be prorated (or spread) across five years for salary cap purposes. Having a longer contract gives the team the option of pushing more money into the later years of the contract. The long contract gives the Cowboys the option of restructuring Bryant's deal in 2016 and 2017, effectively pushing more money into the outer years.
These types of contracts are often described as a "cap-friendly" because they give the team the option of backloading the contract by pushing more money into the outer years. The salary cap impact of Bryant's deal is much more important to the Cowboys than the actual cash spend, simply because the contract is going to take a big chunk out of the team's cap, and that needs to be planned and managed carefully.
The second critical aspect of the deal, as Fisher writes, is how both sides will manage the guaranteed portion of the contract.
Bryant's side will argue that any guarantee has got to top the two-year franchise total of $28.2 million (2015 tag: $12.823 million, 2016 tag: $15.388 million) for a deal to be possible. Nothing was going to happen until the Cowboys budged on that.
Whatever number they eventually end up with, the Cowboys' primary concern is their exposure if something goes wrong. And "something goes wrong" doesn't have to be anything sinister. Comparable contracts all contain some type of language voiding salary guarantees for numerous reasons, including violating the personal conduct policy, suspensions for conduct detrimental, or otherwise pissing off Roger Goodell and his PR team. The Cowboys are willing to pay Dez Bryant like one of the top WRs in the game, but they also want to make sure they get one of the top WRs in the game for at least the duration of the guaranteed part of the contract, and preferably for the full length of the contract.
Will they announce a deal on Monday? Perhaps. But Jerry Jones could just as well be waiting for the right PR window to announce the deal to maximum effect. In any case, contrary to what the Cowboys have publicly said (while they were trying to maintain leverage during contract negotiations), there can be a significant positive effect to setting the market for elite wide receivers, as Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram explains.
Should the Cowboys set the wide-receiver market?
Stephen Jones has repeatedly said this issue is more than Bryant. It’s a league-wide issue with several teams having star receivers approaching free agency (Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas).
Jones has made it clear that the Cowboys don’t necessarily want to be the first team to "set the market." But they should want to do exactly that.
Whichever team gets their receiver locked up first is going to have the cheapest contract of all. No agent is going to let their client sign for less than what has already been set as the market value.
So, if I’m the Cowboys, I’m jumping at the chance to set the market because it’s setting the floor, not the ceiling.
Over to you: If you were in charge of the Cowboys PR machinery, when would you choose to announce the deal?