Cowboys Franchise Dez Bryant

MONDAY, 12:38pm: The Cowboys have officially franchised Bryant, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (via Twitter).

SATURDAY, 6:17pm: Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones has informed Dez Bryant‘s agent that the team will place the franchise tag on the wide receiver on Monday, the Dallas Morning News’ David Moore reports.

According to Moore, Jones broke the news to Tom Condon, Bryant’s agent, Friday afternoon. The franchise tag protects the Cowboys from the possibility of Bryant hitting the free agent market March 10. The tag is expected to be worth $12.8MM for receivers in 2015. USATSI_8313906_168380616_lowresUSATSI_8197646_168380616_lowres

On whether the Cowboys and Bryant can reach a long-term deal, Jones said, β€œIt’s unrealistic to think it (contract) will happen now so we will use the tag,’’ per Moore.

The two sides have until July 15 to work out a new contract. Otherwise Bryant will play next season under the tag.

Bryant has established himself as an elite, durable wideout during the first five seasons of his career. The 26-year-old has racked up 381 catches and 56 touchdowns while appearing in 75 of a possible 80 regular-season games since Dallas selected him 24th overall out of Oklahoma State in 2010. He hasn’t missed a game since 2011 and is coming off his third straight season with at least 88 catches and 12 TDs. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder set a new career high in 2014 in scores (16) and tied his previous best yards-per-catch mark (15.0). As a result, Bryant earned First-Team All-Pro honors and his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation.

While Dallas will get to keep one of its stars for at least another season, the bad news is that Bryant’s $12.8MM salary for 2015 will take up a significant chunk of its cap space. The Cowboys have approximately $18.60MM in available room, according to, but more than two-thirds of that money will go to Bryant. That’s an unpleasant reality for a team that could lose reigning rushing champ DeMarco Murray, among others, to free agency in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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