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Cowboys release of Dez Bryant is about money versus production, and money won

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There is no other way around it, cash vs. production was the equation that mattered.

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

As the shock is still wearing off that Dez Bryant is no longer a Dallas Cowboys player, it is time to examine why it happened and if it should have happened. The Cowboys front office certainly made a bold move, but was it the right move?

Before we go to deep into it, let’s dispense of one thing - the timing. There are certainly arguments to be made about why the Cowboys waited until now to do it, and if they knew they were going to do it why didn’t they try to trade him earlier, or why didn’t they free up the money so they could use it in the prime of free agency? Excellent topics and something some other BTB writers are going to examine. RJ Ochoa does that in this post. For now, though, we’re looking to see if it was the right move in general.

Are the Cowboys better off with Dez Bryant not on the 2018 roster?

To answer that, first one must determine what they think the value of Dez Bryant was as a player. Unfortunately, for me personally, I no longer saw him as more than a decent WR2. His skills have been in decline. When rumblings first started this offseason about his possible release or contract pay-cut, I decided to go back and watch four complete games focusing on Dez Bryant. I came away unimpressed.

His route-running seemed lazy and without proper fundamentals, he also seemed disinterested on plays that weren’t designed to come his way. It didn’t appear that defenses were particularly worried about having a safety over top on him outside of their normally structured defenses. We all know, of course, that he dropped a lot of passes in 2017. It also didn’t look like his explosion was still present. In other words, he didn’t look like the Dez Bryant we all remember from 2012 to 2014 when he was simply dominant and among the top few wide receivers in the league.

We’ve all discussed why his production had slipped. Injuries surely played a part. The QB carousel of 2015 was a factor. Another factor, in my opinion, is that Tony Romo was the perfect QB for Bryant’s game, Dak Prescott is not. And you are not going to substantially change Dak’s game, instead you’re going to have to build your offense around his skills. Dez doesn’t seem like an ideal fit there. It could be argued that the Cowboys coaches kept using him in the same way with declining results, instead of trying some fresh things so they contributed to the mess.

There is no one reason here, but if you were like me and saw a decline in Bryant’s game, then paying him his current contract was too much. If you are going to a “Dak-friendly” offense, then go all the way. Bite the bullet and pick your new receiver in the draft and let him team up with Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. I know that Bryant and Hurns aren’t the same caliber of receiver, at least not in Bryant’s heyday, but look at Hurns’ numbers versus Bryant’s over the last three years.

Bryant vs. Hurns, 2015-2017
Player Games played Receptions Yards Touchdowns
Dez Bryant 38 150 2,035 17
Allen Hurns 36 138 1,993 15

They have been virtually the same receiver over the last three years. How much are the Cowboys really losing by releasing Dez?

Again, these are just my observations. Maybe I wasn’t reading the game tape correctly. Or maybe Dez will go out and prove people wrong by putting up an outstanding 2018 season with another team. If that happens, perhaps we can blame the coaches for not getting the most out of him. Or should we blame Dez that it took his getting released to get his “edge” back and turn his game around?

It will never be easy to see Dez play for another team. And if he does have a year where he breaks 1,000 yards or double-digit touchdowns, then righteous fury will rain down on the Cowboys front office. I may look back in a year and think - what the heck was I thinking when writing this post.

But my honest opinion right now is that I’d rather draft a WR in the early rounds in two weeks, a player with upside potential and see if he can shake up the passing game with athleticism and explosiveness. Make the offense more “Dak-friendly” for want of a better term.

If we had a crystal ball and could see ahead, we could know if releasing Dez is a good move or a bad move. Since we don’t have that, all we have is our own opinions. In one year, we’ll have a better idea on the real answer.