Friday was the highly anticipated D-Day. To Dez or not to Dez? That was the question on everyone’s mind as Dez Bryant finally met with the Cowboys.
But alas, a decision finally was made.
The Cowboys released their longtime wide receiver on Friday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation.
Bryant's release comes after a highly anticipated meeting with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Friday to discuss the receiver's contract situation. The 29-year-old is due $12.5 million with a $16.5 million cap hit in 2018.
Of the eight wide receivers set to earn more than $12 million in 2018, Bryant was the only one to have averaged less than 1,000 receiving yards per season (678).
Dez took to twitter to say goodbye to the fans...
Cowboy nation I need you to know this wasn’t my decision.. I will always love y’all... forever Dallas in my heart— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) April 13, 2018
Dallas Cowboys: Wide receiver Dez Bryant released - Clarence Hill Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
There will be no more "throwing up the X" in Dallas. Was it all about the Benjamins?
Bryant was informed of his release after a Friday meeting with owner Jerry Jones to discuss his future.
The Cowboys saved $8.5 million off the cap, but the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver still counts as $8 million in dead money. It is not known if he will be designated as a post-June 1 cut. If so, he would count $4 million against the 2018 cap and $4 million against the 2019 cap.
The finances were at the crux of the decision. The outcome is still shocking because of Bryant’s stature within the organization and Jones’ close personal relationship with him since the team picked in 24th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Or maybe it was something else?
Why Cowboys cut Dez: Production on field, attitude off it - Todd, Archer, ESPN
For the past eight seasons, Dez has made a living with some astonishing catches. Now, as we all sit in awe of this decision, we are grasping for answers. Todd Archer explains that his amazing play is not what it used to be.
Since signing a five-year, $70 million deal in 2015, Bryant has not recorded a 1,000-yard season or reached double digits in touchdown catches. He didn't have a 100-yard game last season, just the second time in his career.
The cracks in the relationship started to show earlier this offseason when Jones said the sideline outbursts were a distraction. In the past, it had been written off as a measure of Bryant's passion or the television cameras catching the receiver at an inopportune times, his actions taken out of context.
When the production drops, teams have a difficult time looking the other way.
Some of his teammates expressed their reaction via twitter:
Truly a blessing to have been able to play with you @DezBryant . No one will understand the love and the passion you have for the game. Wish you nothing but the best! I know you’ll be throwing up the X soon enough! My dawg for life! #ThrowUpTheX #OriginalX pic.twitter.com/i3yF62ZB2v— DeMarcus Lawrence (@TankLawrence) April 13, 2018
The Cowboys newest member to their wide receiver family will never get the opportunity to play alongside Dez, but he did have this to say:
Would’ve loved to line up with ya man but God have bigger plans. Go ball out fam https://t.co/U4zCtaW0eU— Allen Hurns (@A1hurns) April 13, 2018
And for anyone thinking Hurns might don his Jacksonville number now that it is available?...he quickly defused that notion.
I will not be wearing 88, they might as well retire that number.— Allen Hurns (@A1hurns) April 13, 2018
Life after Dez: What does the Cowboys' receiving corps look like now? - Kate Hairopoulus, SportsDay
Let's take a quick moment to check in with what the current state of the Cowboys receiving group looks like, courtesy of Kate Harioppoulos.
The biggest addition, for the moment, comes in the form of Allen Hurns. The Cowboys signed the former Jacksonville receiver to a relatively affordable deal in free agency. It is unclear if he's ready to be a No. 1 receiver and simply take Bryant's spot, though his numbers have been similar to Bryant's over the last three seasons. His best season came in 2015, when he caught 64 passes for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns.
But his production has slipped the last two seasons when he missed 11 games because of a sports hernia and a high ankle sprain. He combined for 74 catches for 961 yards and five touchdowns.
Terrance Williams is in line for his sixth season in Dallas after he signed a new contract last season that fully guarantees his salary in 2018. But he didn't have a touchdown last season and is now coming back from foot surgery.
Cole Beasley, entering his seventh season, was Dak Prescott's go-to in 2016, but Beasley's impact sank last season, along with the entire offense. He has one year remaining in his current deal. It will be up to the Cowboys find ways to help Prescott better connect with his slot receiver.
Dallas also added Deonte Thompson via an affordable deal in free agency. He provides depth and is a speedy deep threat who can take the place of Brice Butler, who Dallas didn't try to re- sign and who ended up with Arizona.
Of course, the Cowboys should be taking a hard look at this year’s young draft class to find a new star receiver as their draft needs have changed just a smidgen.
Cowboys' 2018 draft picks: Projecting first-rounder, late-round sleepers - Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
The absence of Bryant leaves a big hole. How will this affect the Cowboys draft in a couple weeks?
Cowboys' 2018 draft needs
Wide receiver: Dez Bryant, who turns 30 in November and has seen his play fade, was cut. Terrance Williams, a shaky No. 2, anyway, turns 39 in September and is coming off a broken right foot. With Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer and newcomer Allen Hurns, the Cowboys have plenty of options in the slot, so the focus should be on a big-target replacement for Bryant and a big-play upgrade from Williams on the outside.
Candidates to be WR1 in the years AD (After Dez) – Jeff Cavanaugh, The Athletic
Life without Dez could be challenging for an offense looking for ways to help make things easier for it's quarterback. Jeff Cavanaugh looks at a couple options who could step in and start filling those shoes, including the star receiver from Alabama.
ROUTE RUNNING: Ridley is the best route-runner in the class. He can execute any route from any spot on the field.
SAVVY: It's not just his ability to run the routes but the skill in setting up defenders and changing his speeds during a route to create separation.
SPEED: Having someone who is a nuanced route runner but can also blow by you is a tough thing to cover.
AFTER CATCH: He's not going to run anyone over, but has the ability to make a first guy miss on stop routes with instant acceleration as well as on the move with a change of direction.
RELEASE: Quick feet and change of direction skills help him beat defenders off the line of scrimmage.
FEEL: Against zone defenses, you can count on him to find the hole.
The Cowboys may not be interested in Bryant anymore, but it won’t take long for another team to come calling.
Oddsmakers see Dez Bryant in Washington - Drew Davison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Bryant immediately becomes the biggest name on the free agent open market. Where will he end up playing in 2018? Let's check what the oddmakers have to say.
None other than the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys' NFC East rival, according to Bookmaker.eu. That website has listed the Redskins at plus-125 followed by the New York Giants (+200) and San Francisco 49ers (+250).
The Redskins and Giants make sense, of course, given that Bryant has already said he'd like to face the Cowboys twice a year.
But USA Today's Mike Jones said that Bryant isn't on the Redskins' "radar right now."
That could change.
The Philadelphia Eagles could be another dark horse candidate. It would fit Bryant's desires to stay within the NFC East, and reunite him with Eagles wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer, who coached Bryant at Oklahoma State. But the Eagles didn't make Bookmaker.eu's cut.
Please, no. Not Philadelphia.
If the Cowboys cut Dez I will be really sad. If they cut him and he signs with the Eagles I will throw a tantrum that will land me in anger management like the Nard Dawg. pic.twitter.com/uVPfB2vEDL— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) April 11, 2018
Texas’ new top wide receiver gives us a glimpse of what Dez would look as his teammate.
More Dez Bryant news that suggests Bryant is not leaving Dallas quietly.
- Dez Bryant says now he would have taken a pay cut to stay - R.J. Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
- Dez Byrant calls out coaches, players labeled “Garrett’s guys” after his release - Dave Haprin, Blogging The Boys
- Only one reason makes sense as to why the Cowboys waited this long to release Dez Bryant - R.J. Blogging The Boys
- Cowboys release of Dez Bryant is about money versus production, and money won - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
Dez Bryant: “It’s very personal” – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
While some will say it's just business, it's hard to expect Dez not take things personaly. Emotions are high right now and it's very personal to him.
“If I didn’t have my edge I got it now,” Bryant said on Twitter in the aftermath of his release. “I’m sorry they got to feel me it’s personal . . . it’s very personal.”
Personal enough that Dez surely will be inclined to consider joining a team that plays in the NFC East, facing the Cowboys twice per year. The fact that he already has reportedly said that he’ll see the Cowboys twice per year suggests that he’s at least considered — if not more than that — the possibility of joining the Eagles, Giants, or Washington.
Dez walked out saying I'll see guys twice this year, I'm told. So that's that.— Mickey Spagnola (@Spags52) April 13, 2018
That’s not really something I wanted to hear.
Tyrann Mathieu fires shots at Cowboys, Kavon Frazier responds - Patrik Walker, 247 Sports
The Cowboys did not pursue the Tyrann Mathieu this as he wasn't seen as the type of player they were looking for at free safety. The Honey Badger took to twitter to offer up his assessment of himself and the current players on the Cowboys.
Kavon Frazier had this response...
Damn honey boy deleting tweets now??? Naw leave it up so we can make it look dumb all year. https://t.co/FdTS2DDD0R— Kavon Frazier (@Kay_BlackSimba) April 13, 2018
Is Mathieu correct in his assessment or is he just badgering us with nonsensicals? Well, Patrick Walker provides some numbers that suggest he might be a bit off.
For the record, Mathieu’s point isn’t supported by the numbers, with his Pro Football Focus rating from the 2017 season landing below not just one, but four Cowboys’ defensive backs:
1. Chidobe Awuzie - 81.7
2. Jeff Heath - 80.8
3. Jourdan Lewis - 79.6
4. Xavier Woods - 78.8
5. Tyrann Mathieu - 77.0
In case you missed it...
Make sure to check out this year’s version of the BTB “Little Board” and see which players could be potential options for Dallas in each round.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are four Cowboys mock drafts from our writers based entirely on players from the little board above. There's a poll at the bottom of this post where you can vote on which mock you like the best.