Dec 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) celebrate after catching a pass for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
According to multiple sources Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys have begun preliminary talks concerning a contract extension. Dez Bryant enters the final year of his rookie deal and would like to make more than the $1.78M he’s slotted to receive.
Over the past two seasons Dez Bryant has established himself as one of the best WRs in the game. His physical ability and general athleticism is second to none. Scoring a league leading 25 TDs over 2012 and 2013, Dez has established himself as one of the best redzone receivers in the league and Tony Romo’s favorite option.
The question at hand is how much is Dez worth…
Dez considers himself elite and wants to be paid as such.
"Yeah, I deserve it. I deserve it, Dez tells Tim MacMahon. I feel I do. I put the work in, but I let that kind of stuff take care of itself."
All indications say Dez would like to be paid like a top five WR despite only ranking #13 in NFL receiving yards last season. Last season’s level of production is what you expect from a #1 receiver in a pass-heavy offense. Factor in how poorly the defense was and that the Cowboys were never comfortably ahead and it’s a little surprising Dez didn’t have more.
A top 10 WR in the NFL makes roughly $10-12M per season. The Top 5 average around $14M per season. Which camp Dez belongs in is what the Cowboys are trying to figure out.
So far this offseason, Dez has made an impression on his coaching staff and fellow WRs. With the departure of Miles Austin, Bryant has taken a leadership role on the team. He has studied film, stayed in peak physical shape, and most importantly learned multiple receiver positions.
All too often last season opposing defenses eliminated Dez from the game. Teams would shift coverage towards his side and neutralize him altogether. For every 100+ yard game Dez had a clunker where he failed to gain 50 yards (22, 38, 36, 44, 12).
Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a touchdown pass as Oakland Raiders cornerback Mike Jenkins (21) defends in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The next step in Bryant’s development is becoming more comfortable from the slot and using motion to free himself from restrictive coverages. Previously the Cowboys were hesitant to motion or move Dez because he wasn’t as comfortable running different route trees from different positions.
As the season progressed in 2013, Garrett started moving Dez around more. Dez wasn’t as comfortable as you’d like (nor was Romo as confident in trusting that Dez would make the right read and route adjustment), but he did have some success. For Dez to take that next big step and truly be considered among the elite (Calvin Johnson & Larry Fitzgerald level), Dez must master the art of movement. He must be equally proficient playing X, Y, and Z receiver spots. Then he will be unstoppable.
Dez isn’t going anywhere. The Cowboys will resign him and he will be paid like a Top 5 WR regardless of whether he takes that final step or not. Having him play out his contract in 2014 and waiting to see if he does become elite isn’t Jerry Jones’ style. Even Bryant seems willing to compromise a bit too.
"I’m loyal to the squad, says Bryant. I’ve always been. Me and my agent are going to talk about [re-signing for a hometown discount]."
A discount is nice to say but it’s not very likely in all actuality. Expect Dez to sign a new deal sometime in training camp in the range of $14M per season (Behind Megatron and Fitz but ahead of the others). The Cowboys will have to cross their fingers and hope all of his hard work is paying off and he has taken that next step in his development. Dez is talented enough to be the very best – but he’s not their quite yet.
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