By Seth Rivello
Having a wide receiver that is constantly productive is hard to find in the NFL, but when you find one, they can come with a lot of baggage. Some can’t control themselves off the field, on the field and on the sidelines. They let emotions run wild and they always want big money. Once they get paid, sometimes they let themselves go. Workouts aren’t important to them anymore, meetings don’t mean anything and being a distraction is encouraged.
In 2010, the Dallas Cowboys took a shot at a receiver in the first round out of Oklahoma State University. He fit the mold of a great receiver: 6-foot-2 and about 220 pounds with speed and good hands. Dez Bryant could not be passed on. Yes, he had his speed bumps in college and got suspended his junior year only after playing three games. Dallas is known to take these guys in.
Playing eight seasons in Dallas, Bryant has been recognized as an “elite” receiver. The Dallas Cowboys all-time receiving list has Bryant’s name plastered everywhere. Third in receptions (531), fifth in yards (7,495) and first in touchdowns (73). Those can no longer be added to by Bryant because he was cut by Dallas to free up $8 million in cap space. The five-year, $70 million deal he signed back in 2015 did not last.
From 2012-2014, Bryant accumulated 273 catches, 3,935 yards, and 41 touchdowns. Quarterback Tony Romo and an offense based around Bryant set him up for this production and his huge deal. Romo goes down with injury in 2015 and only throws four more passes in 2016. This is where Bryant’s production and health fall. Through 2015-2017, he only accumulated 150 catches, 2,035 yards and 17 touchdowns in 38 games. Now add on his sideline tantrums, he isn’t worth $70 million.
Dallas fans can take this in two ways: is this a good thing or bad thing he’s gone? I’m not a Dallas fan but this seems like a good move. You want to build around a young quarterback in Dak Prescott and develop a run-first team with Ezekiel Elliott. You don’t want to fluster a young quarterback with a diva receiver. Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo and a couple other quarterbacks had the same problems with Terrell Owens. Owens was constantly in the media and in the ears of the offense demanding the ball. In the end it never worked out.
You want a controlled locker room especially with the young team Dallas has. Bryant may be a veteran but he is past his prime. At 29 years old approaching 30, injuries and lack of chemistry caused him to miss his “really” productive years, possibly 1,700-yard, 20-touchdown years. Take the money you saved by cutting him and spend it on savvy veterans or young developing guys.
Dallas still didn’t fully rid the Bryant headache. As Bryant was walking out after his release he said, “I’ll see you guys twice this year.” That means Bryant has intentions of signing in the NFC East with either the Washington Redskins, New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles. If that’s the case his best landing spot would be the Eagles.
Washington has no second receiver to take pressure off Bryant, no run game and Alex Smith under center. The Giants have Odell Beckham Jr. and if they mix that with Bryant, the locker room would be an absolute mess. With the Eagles coming off a Super Bowl victory and Carson Wentz currently healthy, a productive backfield committee threatens to take eyes off Bryant. Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz would take eyes away from Bryant.
The ball is in Bryant’s court now. It’s up to him to find his speed again and break separation from these young corners. Bryant’s 1,300-yard seasons are gone but if he keeps his mouth shut and leads these young guys he can find himself in a nice situation.