2:00pm: Bryant himself has taken to Twitter to make his stance clear, tweeting that he “will not be there” if he doesn’t get a new deal from the Cowboys. Bryant’s tweet doesn’t specify whether he means he’ll miss training camp or some of the regular season, but based on what we’ve already heard today, I’d guess he’s referring to both. Whether or not he’ll actually follow through with the threat remains to be seen.
11:29am: Contradicting his own report, Werder tweets that Jones has denied that Bryant threatened to miss camp and regular season games. Considering we’ve been hearing for weeks that this was part of Bryant’s plan, Jones must be disputing the fact that the wideout made those comments specifically in a call to him.
10:36am: While reports this summer have suggested that Dez Bryant is considering sitting out regular season games if his contract situation remains unsettled, it didn’t appear that the Cowboys were seriously anticipating that outcome. Now, according to Ed Werder of ESPN.com, Bryant has personally called Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones to tell him that if the two sides don’t reach a long-term agreement by Wednesday, he won’t attend training camp and he’ll miss real games.
Of course, it remains possible that Bryant and his camp are bluffing, particularly with the July 15 deadline for franchised players to sign multiyear contracts looming. However, now that the threat is coming directly from the star wideout, rather than from sourced reports or second-hand quotes, the Cowboys will likely have to take it a little more seriously — even if the team still suspects it’s a play for leverage.
There have been mixed reports in recent weeks on how close Bryant and the Cowboys are to working out a long-term extension, with some outlets suggesting both sides are optimistic about a deal, while others say there’s no indication that progress has been made. Generally, deadlines spur action, so I’d expect talks between Bryant’s camp and the Cowboys to heat up this week, even if those negotiations don’t ultimately result in an extension.
Details on the specific figures being negotiated by the Cowboys and Bryant have been scarce, though Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan has cited seven years and $100MM as a point of reference. Those numbers would make some sense for both sides, though the guaranteed money involved in the deal could be a sticking point.
As the Cowboys negotiate with Bryant, they’re also being eyed by the NFL Players Association, which suspects that the Cowboys and Broncos have colluded in contract talks for Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, respectively. So far, the NFLPA hasn’t formally filed a complaint, but it sounds as if the union believes the two teams have spoken to one another about the receivers’ contract situations, perhaps in an effort to limit their overall earnings.
Speaking of earnings, while players are usually subject to fines if they skip training camp, Bryant has yet to sign his one-year franchise tender, so if he doesn’t ink a long-term contract, the 26-year-old figures to leave that offer unsigned for now. As long as he’s not technically under contract, Bryant can’t be fined for missing training camp, though he’d begin to forfeit his 2015 salary at a rate of about $754K per week if he misses regular season action.
While I could see him showing up late to training camp, I’d be surprised if Bryant followed through on his threat to miss regular season games. Once Wednesday’s deadline passes, he and the Cowboys can’t finalize a multiyear contract until after the season, so sitting out Week 1 wouldn’t spur the team to meet his long-term demands. Still, perhaps the threat of a holdout could result in the Cowboys modifying the Pro Bowler’s one-year deal to include some player-friendly terms, such as a guarantee that the club won’t franchise him again in 2016.