Cowboys: Was Dez used as a smokescreen for the draft?

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys sits on the field after missing a pass against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 20, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys sits on the field after missing a pass against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 20, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Dez Bryant’s late release may have been the Cowboys’ attempt to mislead the rest of the NFL of their intentions in the first round

It wasn’t shocking the Dallas Cowboys released Dez Bryant this offseason. I mean, the writing was on the wall. Dallas tried to sign Sammy Watkins to an enormous deal in March. They successfully signed Allen Hurns to a two-year deal soon after. And they heavily scouted the top pass-catchers in the upcoming draft all spring. The writing was on the wall (although I admittedly predicted otherwise).

What was surprising was the timing of said release. Looking back, it’s pretty clear the Cowboys knew all along what they were going to do with ol’ number 88. Possibly the moment the season ended. So that makes the decision to postpone his release a curious one.

If they knew they didn’t want him on the team, why did they wait until the eleventh hour to set him free? With the market now almost completely dried up, Dez likely stands to make a fraction of what he could have garnered if he had been released the first week of March. This, not only seemed unnecessary, but frankly, cruel.

Even if they wanted to wait until they could replace him, why didn’t they cut him the moment Allen Hurns was signed? Instead they spoke of the two coexisting on the impossibly deep depth chart.

Were they really unsure or were they executing a plan?

I suspect it may be the latter…


Tis the season for smokescreens in the NFL. We’re mere days away from the 2018 NFL Draft and every NFL front office is trying to throw their competition off their respective scents. The Cowboys, somewhat notorious for April smokescreens, may be doing that right now.

Look at what’s happened in draft prognostications since Dez Bryant was released. Virtually everyone has bumped WR up the needs list for the Cowboys. That is, except for the Cowboys themselves.

Fellow NFL teams keep close tabs on one another. They track each other’s needs closely so they can forecast which players will go where. You can bet your sweet donkey they just elevated WR on the Cowboys’ needs list as well.

They’ve also probably written it down in ink that Dallas will be drafting a receiver in the first round.

Even I updated my latest 7-round mock draft to bring a receiver to Dallas in round 1:

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And that may be exactly what the Cowboys are hoping. Perhaps the Cowboys are fine waiting until the second day to find their next pass-catcher. Perhaps they have their eyes set on a different player at a different position in the first round.

Recency Effect

By waiting to cut Dez, they are taking advantage of the recency effect. They are leading their competition to forget all about all the other needs of Dallas, instead focusing exclusively on the most recent hole in the Cowboys’ roster: WR.

Offensive tackle, linebacker, and under tackle are viewed as top-heavy talent groups this year. The falloff between the top-tier and the next tier is pretty significant. So if teams think the Cowboys are interested in one of those top-heavy positions, they may be inclined to move ahead of Dallas to get their player. But if they are convinced Dallas is not interested in one of those players and think Dallas is targeting a WR at pick 19, those teams may feel safe sitting back and waiting for Dallas to pick.

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Possible Targets?

OT Mike McGlinchey and DT Taven Bryan, in particular, are two players the Dallas Cowboys have shown heavy interest in the past few weeks. They are among the best at what they do and could fall into Dallas’ laps if things play out right.

Both players are a shallow position group (Taven is one of the few under tackles in this draft and McGlinchey is one of the few NFL-caliber offensive tackles).  If either fell into the late teens, they could be worth it for a team to trade up for.

If those teams sitting behind Dallas are convinced the Cowboys are picking a WR, they would have no reason to move up.

Furthermore, a team that’s convinced Dallas is picking a receiver may feel they need to move ahead of them to pick one. Dallas would then see the real object of their affection slip down to them at 19.

It’s hard to tell what is real and what is fake at this time of the year. But we have to believe WR is just as much of a need today as it was back in February for the Cowboys.

The only thing that’s changed is our perception of the need. The Cowboys could have buried this need had they released Dez back in March. But they waited and made us all prisoners of the moment. You’d like to think that was for a reason…

Next: How Dallas is targeting these high-risk/high-reward players

*Note: I’m not a fan of Taven Bryan but the Cowboys appear to be. He plays the 3-technique and with current 3-tech starter, David Irving, under investigation and playing on a one-year deal, the position is likely to be open in 2019. More on this tomorrow…