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More opportunities or not, Brice Butler isn’t Dez Bryant

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The free agent wide receiver took a moment to express his frustrations with how he is being used in Dallas.

Kansas City Chiefs v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Brice Butler has pretty much played his last game with the Dallas Cowboys. The writing is on the wall, and he is the one writing it. The veteran wide receiver is set to hit free agency and based on his feelings expressed on the show, Undisputed, returning to the Cowboys doesn’t seem likely. Butler doesn’t feel like he was utilized properly in Dallas and believes he could be a 100+ catch receiver if he was given the chance.

More productive than Dez? I understand that players believe in themselves and it’s not uncommon for them to exaggerate their abilities, but this is a bridge too far. I have no trouble believing that he could produce better numbers if he was giving more opportunities, but let’s not go crazy with this. Bryant faced one of the toughest arsenals of cornerbacks this season. Butler did not.

Last season, when the Cowboys offense was firing on all cylinders, Butler got his shot. Dez Bryant missed four games last season and here were Butlers stats in those games:

  • Week 4 (against San Francisco): nine targets, five catches, 41 yards, one touchdown
  • Week 5 (against Cincinnati): three targets, two catches, 20 yards, no touchdown
  • Week 6 (against Green Bay): three targets, one catch, 20 yards, one touchdown
  • Week 7 (against Philadelphia): three targets, one catch, 19 yards, no touchdown

Without Bryant on the field, Butler had a golden opportunity to become more involved in the offense. Prescott looked his way quite a bit in the first Dez-less game, but Butler only came away with 41 yards receiving. After that first game, his targets took a big hit. Why was that? Maybe it was because Butler’s skill set was limited and that he fit a very specific role in the Cowboys offense.

Question: Why, in your view, did you not play more?

Butler: I think in this league, when you think about the business aspect, you’ve got to follow the money trail. Both of our starters made money. Terrance [Williams] just got paid last year. So there were times where I was like, I’m making plays, aren’t we trying to win games? Why am I not on the field? But that’s the only thing that I can really think of.

This, to put it kindly, is absurd. The Cowboys coaching staff doesn’t divvy out opportunities based on your salary. A high draft resource or a pricey contract may give a player a head start in training camp, but what a player does on the field will dictate how they will be used going forward. In 2013, Miles Austin counted for $8.3 million against the cap whereas Cole Beasley was only a $480,000 cap hit. Despite starting in five less games than Austin, Beasley would outperform him in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns. It was never a money thing. It was a “what can you do for this offense” thing.

And while the love for Butler is high from some fans and not-so-high for Dez right now, it’s a real stretch to even mention these two guys in the same sentence. Butler was a seventh-round pick in the draft for a reason. He was expendable to the Oakland Raiders for a reason. And he was re-signed by the Cowboys for only a one-year, $1.1 million deal for a reason. If the Cowboys aren’t utilizing him correctly, then neither did the Raiders, or San Diego State for that matter.

While he’s got great speed, he’s a long-strider so it takes him a while to get going. This is just fine if you’re looking for a vertical threat, but not so much if you need him to suddenly change direction and offer more of an arsenal of route running. Butler’s made some big plays over the last two seasons, but that’s because he fits right into his role and not indicative of a player who could breakout if he was given more chances. Butler doesn’t see it that way.

“You know how it is, man. If you’re a guy getting 130 targets a season versus a guy who’s only getting 30 targets a season, the only difference is the opportunity.”

Good players create their own opportunity. If Butler was as good as he thinks he is, the Cowboys would certainly give him more chances. He would have made more of a splash during the times Bryant wasn’t on the field. If airing out his frustrations helps his bank account this offseason, more power to him, but it wouldn’t be hard for the Cowboys to supplement his contributions at a low cost. Butler’s remarks are an indication that he’s already got one foot out the door in Dallas.