The Cowboys’ signing of former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins yesterday drew some attention, but there’s a good chance that Dallas simply added Jenkins to its roster to help the team get through its offseason program. With Dez Bryant not expected to participate in OTAs, and his attendance for June’s minicamp still a question mark, Jenkins represents another healthy body at the wide receiver position, perhaps one with a little upside.
It’s possible that Bryant returns to fully participate in Dallas’ offseason program sooner rather than later, but that would likely require the two sides reaching resolution on his contract situation. Having been assigned the franchise tag, Bryant is in line to earn a one-year salary of $12.823MM if he signs his one-year contract tender, but he hasn’t done so yet.
Like most star players who are franchised, Bryant would presumably prefer to secure a long-term extension rather than going year to year with the Cowboys. However, while the 26-year-old’s on-field production leaves no question that he should be paid like one of the NFL’s top receivers, Dallas may still have lingering concerns about his history of off-field issues.
As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com noted last week when he took a look at Bryant’s situation, the Cowboys’ most recent publicly-reported contract offer looked massive at first glance, featuring a $114MM overall price tag. However, that offer was reportedly for 10 years, with just $20MM in guaranteed money. That’s a very team-friendly structure, considering consecutive franchise tags would pay Bryant significantly more than $25MM in guaranteed money, and would leave him in position to hit the open market at age 28.
Corry points out that the Cowboys are making the Bryant negotiations trickier for themselves by making concessions in contract agreements with other players whose off-field concerns were arguably more significant than Bryant’s — the club was willing to include a clause in Greg Hardy‘s contract that prevents him from being franchised, and La’el Collins‘ new deal doesn’t feature any offsets. Depending on how the negotiations with Bryant progress, the wideout’s camp may point to those deals and rightly argue that a player with Bryant’s track record (an average of 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns per year since 2012) should receive even more favorable terms.
With Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, and A.J. Green also in line for new deals this offseason, all four teams may be trying to wait out the market rather than setting it themselves. In Thomas’ and Bryant’s cases, a July 15 deadline looms — if no long-term contract is worked out by that point, signing the one-year franchise tag looks like the most likely outcome for both star receivers.
What do you think? Does Bryant sign a multiyear extension with the Cowboys within the next few weeks, or is it more probable that he plays out the year on his franchise tag?