The Packers and Cowboys have a renewed rivalry that is much like the late-1960’s as both times the Cowboys have made the playoffs, they were ousted by Aaron Rodgers’ Packers. Things change in the NFL every offseason and the Packers are in a similar boat as the Cowboys. Both teams are moving on from their former top receivers.
Back in March, the Packers released Jordy Nelson, after nine seasons with the Packers. Nelson had been a staple for the Packers for many seasons and had consecutive seasons of over 1,300+ receiving yards in 2013-2014 before tearing his ACL in 2015. Still, Nelson bounced back in 2016 with 97 receptions and 1,257 receiving yards. In 2017, Nelson’s numbers dropped significantly to 53 receptions and 482 yards, despite starting all but one game. Nelson, who is three years older than Bryant, was released on March 13th after only one season of decline. Nelson signed a two-year deal with the Oakland Raiders on March 15th.
Dez Bryant had seen declines for three straight seasons following his five-year extension signed in 2015. Dez, who is still unsigned after being released April 13, Jason Witten suggested a “Dez to Green Bay” scenario, though there hasn’t been any substantial interest reported. Aaron Rodgers, the two-time MVP, and thorn in the Cowboys side, spoke with media about potential interest in Bryant:
“Well, we like young receivers, so I’m assuming that’s the way they’re going to keep going,” Rodgers said. “I don’t know why you’d cut Jordy and bring in Dez, but he’s a talented player. He’s going to end up somewhere. If he ends up here, we’ll obviously welcome him with open arms and get him up to speed as quick as possible.”
Rodgers doesn’t see why the Packers would cut Jordy Nelson, a receiver they saw as declining, to sign another receiver in Bryant that is in the same boat. Green Bay drafted three young receivers already this offseason:
Although Green Bay did not sign a free-agent receiver, new general manager Brian Gutekunst drafted three of them: Missouri’s J’Mon Moore (fourth round), South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth) and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown(fifth).
The Packers have Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, and Randall Cobb still on the roster ahead of that list of rookies. They also signed the dynamic receiving tight end threat that is Jimmy Graham to a three-year, $30 million deal. Though Rodgers would certainly welcome Bryant to the roster, at this point, it’s understandable to question this fit. The longer Bryant sits on the open market, the more his price tag comes down. Mike McCarthy stated that the new GM is always looking to improve the state of the roster:
“Just as far as Brian’s focus on personnel, it’s a 365 (days of the year) focus,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday. “But yeah, those guys are always churning on things, and I think it’s no different than the coaching staff. He’s in Year 1, and so there will be changes as he moves forward -- tweaks and changes. It needs to be his system, his structure. But I would classify him as still very actively involved and just checking everything and being on top of what’s available.”
Nobody envisioned Dez Bryant staying unemployed this long but it’s equally hard to place a landing spot for the eight-year veteran. At this point, teams are likely looking at what they have though injuries at the position could but Bryant at the top of anyone’s list. Jerry Jones has already confirmed that the Cowboys are moving on with no potential reunion with Bryant in the works for the future. The NFL is a young man’s game and more teams are looking for youth to surround their aging quarterbacks like the Saints, Giants, Packers, and Patriots have all done recently.
In order for Bryant to have a fit on a roster, it’s going to have to be a team that is convinced that he’s going to make the roster significantly better. At his best, Dez Bryant was the guy that could dominate the 50/50 ball and out-physical his defender. There are still remnants of that guy but after averaging over 1,300 yards with 14 touchdowns per year from 2012-2014, Bryant has averaged 678 yards and six touchdowns in the three seasons since. If he doesn’t fit the Green Bay Packers then where does he fit?