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ESPN “boldly” predicts that Dez Bryant will be released this offseason

Could it really happen?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It was just three years ago that Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere were excited about the prospective future of the Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant trio.

Many were calling them the re-incarnated version of the franchise’s famed triplets, but those fantasies faded as soon as DeMarco Murray signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.

Tony Romo would only play four more games before his time in Dallas ended as well, leaving Dez Bryant all alone and with a new pair of friends in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

Many have speculated that Dez’s time itself could be up in the silver and blue soon, despite the fact that he just became the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns this past season. On Friday ESPN went so far as to suggest Bryant will be released in their bold predictions for the offseason.

The Cowboys will release the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown catches and gain $8.5 million in salary-cap space. Stephen Jones’ recent comments about Bryant’s sideline antics being a distraction and needing to look at the contract seem to be setting the stage for the parting. It is possible the Cowboys could offer Bryant a pay cut, but that’s not something they did with DeMarcus Ware -- the franchise leader in sacks -- after the 2013 season. They did not have a replacement for Ware when they made the move then, and they don’t have a replacement for Bryant now, but they can use free agency and/or the draft to add a receiver to do what Bryant has done the past three seasons. -- Todd Archer

When Stephen Jones said what he did about Dez, it was understandable that this could have been the writing on the wall of something imminent. Many believed he was opening the door for those conversations.

“The other thing that we all see and it is certainly visible to anyone who watches our games, watches our sideline, is Dez is certainly a fiery guy who plays with a lot of emotion both on and off the field. Sometimes that can be a distraction. It can be a distraction for Dez, it can be a distraction for other teammates. And we just have to really get our hands around when you put all the full body of work together where that’s headed.”

As our own DannyPhantom pointed out at the time, this was one of the first instances of someone within the Cowboys braintrust adding a negative implication to Dez Bryant’s “passion.” They were unprovoked comments, ones that Stephen Jones put out very consciously.

All of that coupled with the notion that Todd Archer is now predicting, granted a bold prediction, that Dez Bryant could be released is certainly eyebrow-raising. It seems as if the possibility of Dallas doing so in order to save some money is a very real possibility.

The question that remains about the idea of releasing Dez, even in a bold world, is who would replace him? Terrance Williams has shown an inability to be the team’s number one receiver, and Brice Butler tweeted about the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday in a way that suggests he won’t be back either.

Free agency is a route the Cowboys could explore to bring in a true number one if they do part ways with Dez Bryant. New receivers coach Sanjay Lal has a connection with Sammy Watkins that could prove valuable, and the Cowboys might be inspired by what the division rival Philadelphia Eagles just did with Alshon Jeffery that helped them win the Super Bowl.

Of course, the upcoming draft is another avenue the Cowboys could explore when it comes to bringing in a new receiver, but it would be awfully dicey to release Dez Bryant simply based on thinking they could land a certain receiver when the draft is so unpredictable.

Whatever the case ends up being, it seems that Dez Bryant actually being be released by Dallas is still a viable debate topic. For now, we wait.

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