Dez Bryant expected to be released by the Cowboys. What happened?
Dez Bryant was the Cowboysâ leading receiver last season. But the team announced on Friday that they would be releasing their star wideout.
The team hasnât been satisfied with Bryant, even though he had a team-best 838 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season. As a matter of fact, team vice president Stephen Jones all but came right out and said Bryant wasnât living up to his salary or the teamâs expectations.
He tweeted shortly after the news:
It was congruent with what he was tweeting just the night before:
Jerry Jones released a statement on the matter, saying it was the best decision for the team:
Bryant hasnât eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark since 2014. He was tied for third in the league last year for dropped passes, and he cost the team $17 million last season. Now his time in Dallas has come to an end. Hereâs why.
Bryant rubbed Cowboysâ management the wrong way in 2017.
Bryantâs had quite a history of sideline outbursts and tirades directed at the media. The team has generally supported him, like back in 2013 when Bryant claimed a tantrum on the sideline was âall positive.â Video and sound released later by the NFL corroborated that.
Bryant has repeatedly said he doesnât care what the media thinks about his sideline demeanor. Team owner Jerry Jones didnât seem to, either, when he framed Bryantâs personality as a positive thing for the team during the 2015 season.
âIâm going to tell you one thing, heâs go t a passion. Thereâs just no stopping it. You just canât calm him down when he gets going. He uses a lot of energy doing that,â Jones said on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. âThatâs his passion. And this team uses some of that passion. Itâs not a negative thing.â
But that changed in 2017. Bryant had a blowup on the sideline during the Cowboysâ Christmas Eve loss to the Seahawks right after he dropped a crucial pass. He fumbled his next target and finished with three catches for 43 yards. The Cowboys lost, 21-12.
After the season wrapped up, Stephen Jones said Bryantâs behavior can be problematic.
âIt 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,â Jones said on the teamâs official Hanginâ with the Boys podcast. âSometimes that can be a distraction. It can be a distraction for Dez, it can be a distraction for other teammates.
âAnd we just have to really get our hands around when you put all the full body of work together where thatâs headed.â
Bryantâs passionate about the game, and thatâs not a bad thing. But his productivity makes it harder for the team to look the other way on his outbursts. Bryant averaged just over 52 yards per game last season.
He was the perfect WR for Tony Romo, but not Dak Prescott.
It would be easier for the Cowboys to keep accepting Bryantâs behavior if he were tearing it up on the field. But he isnât, and part of the reason Bryant hasnât lived up to the teamâs expectations is the shift from Romo to Prescott.
Bryant has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark three times in his career. It happened in 2012, 2013, and 2014 â" all seasons that Romo was on the field for at least 15 games.
Romoâs gone, blessing us all with his NFL observations in the booth for CBS. And Prescott is the Cowboysâ quarter back of the future, which changed Bryantâs worth to the team. Now he wonât have an opportunity to improve his chemistry with Prescott.
Bryantâs contract exceeds his contributions.
Bryant signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension with the Cowboys before the 2015 season. He was set to count $16.5 million against the cap in 2018, which is excessive for a receiver who didnât surpass 100 receiving yards in any game last season.
Jones was blunt about it.
âOf course we pay Dez a lot of money, and he knows that. Heâs as aware of it as anybody,â Jones said. âHe knows when you get paid that kind of money thereâs high expectations in terms of the productivity. ... Those are all things we have to look at as a team, as an organization when we start to put our team together for next year.â
The Cowboys absorb just $4 million in dead money from the move. Bryant shouldnât have any trouble landing with a new team, but heâll make substantially less money. But the relief was needed for the Cowboys:
Bryant would not be designated for a post-June 1 cut.
The Cowboys have valid reasons to move on from Bryant, particularly his price tag. But they might have some trouble replacing his productivity. Theyâve got Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Ryan Switzer still on the roster. Those three players combined had just 85 more yards than Bryant did last season.
But the Cowboys donât have a history of big spending in free agency, and they only have about $20 million in cap space to work with this offseason. Dallas is down a draft pick this year after sending their 2018 fifth-round selection to the Jets to move up and take Xavier Woods in the sixth round of the 2017 draft.
However, based on the numbers, itâs a move the Cowboys felt they had to make:
Dallas has to think about life after 35-year-old Jason Witten, and the Cowboys still have pressing needs at linebacker and the interior defensive line, but cutting ties with Bryant makes receiver an urgent need, too. Oklahoma Stateâs James Washington, who met with the Cowboys in January, is projected as a second rounder and could be a solid target for Dallas in the draft.
Now, the Cowboysâ depth chart at WR doesnât look so great.
Bryant has been the Cowboysâ best receiver since he came into the league. Now, the team is left withBeasley, Butler, and Switzer. At this point, it wouldnât be surprising if they looked to the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft for help.
They signed Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in free agency this offseason, but as it stands right now, Prescott could stand to use another receiver or two in his arsenal.
This isnât the first time Jerry Jones has moved on from a franchise cornerstone. Heâs moved on from Emmitt Smith, DeMarcus Ware, Larry Allen, and Terrell Owens in the past. Now, heâll be looking for the next in line to succeed we aring the famed Cowboys star.
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