Dez Bryant’s Free Agency Has Hit a Standstill
As the middle of June approaches and summer camp for the NFL is in full force, former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is sitting at home without a job. This April, Dallas formally released Bryant after spending eight seasons with the organization. While some expected owners and general managers to be knocking on Dez’s door left and right, his market value hasn’t truly developed since his release.
Maybe it’s because Bryant was first on the chopping block in mid-April, which was long after teams with receiver vacancies found pickups in free agency. Bryant-esque receivers, like D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley and D.J. Chark were drafted in the first two rounds, eliminating some team’s need for Dez.
Maybe it’s the evolution of offenses, like the Rams and 49ers, who don’t rely on their receivers having physicality, but rather want targets that can create space in the secondary by speed. Bryant likes to dive nose-first against corners and likes his chances when you throw the ball his way. Traditional Dez-like wideouts, such as Julio Jones, have seen their receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards depreciate through the past two seasons.
Or maybe teams just don’t want an injury-ridden veteran that has way too high of an asking value. He spent both the 2015 and 2016 seasons battling an injury. This past season, he wasn’t hurt, but wasn’t all that effective. He caught 69 passes through 16 games, which was his lowest in a full season since 2011, and scored six times, making it his worst since scoring three touchdowns as a rookie in 2010. Plus, GM’s are probably weary of his attitude problems at Dallas.
Whatever the reasoning behind teams not signing Dez, it’s mesmerizing to see one of NFL’s most iconic players from 2012-14 not find a spot on an NFL roster yet. His lone offer came from the Ravens, who tried shooting for a three-year, $21 million deal, but Bryant shot it down.
The 29-year-old Lufkin, Texas native wants a single-year deal, where he hopes to have a breakout performance and get a large contract by 2019. But by doing that, Dez is playing with fire, not having put up a 1,000-yard season since 2014 and risking a make-or-break situation.
So that leaves the constant question, where does Dez fit in? If Lamar Jackson somehow succeeds Joe Flacco as the quarterback on the Ravens, Bryant will regret not taking his talents to Baltimore. While the need is there for teams like the Bills, the Giants and the 49ers, they are all reportedly not interested in signing Bryant. The Seahawks got their veteran fix by signing Brandon Marshall, and teams like the Steelers and Broncos seem unreasonable, considering their lack of cap space.
Frankly, the one person that would jump on signing an egoistic veteran like Bryant is Jerry Jones, ironically.
Unless he becomes more flexible with his contract, there seems to be just two dark horse candidates for Bryant to land in: Green Bay and New Orleans.
The Saints don’t have much to offer Bryant in the now, but can offer him more down the road. With less than $4 million in cap space, they would need to essentially go all in for Bryant and promise a load of offseason incentives. Drew Brees has the arm to launch bombs to Dez and New Orleans’ constant contention in the playoffs makes them a desirable landing spot.
Then there’s Green Bay, who would be gambling in its worst PR stunt to date by signing Bryant. They released Jordy Nelson this offseason, which left a sour taste in the mouths of fans and especially quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Not to mention that beyond the NFC North, Packers fans hate the Cowboys and getting Dallas’ former desperado in Dez just feels wrong.
Still, it’s the most likely spot for Bryant at this point. Green Bay has $10 million in cap space and they need a veteran target for Rodgers. Whether Bryant will be an upgrade from Nelson will be to determined, but a healthy Green Bay roster means a playoff contender in the NFC. A one-year deal for Bryant seems formidable for the Packers, but the player-staff relationship might turn out to be more forced than favored for the organization.