Dez Bryant

NFC Notes: Rams, Joyner, Eagles, Redskins, Dez Bryant

The deadline to reach deals with players who were franchised tagged was set by the league as July 16th. If a player and a team can’t agree on a deal by then, they aren’t allowed to agree to a longterm deal until after the 2018 season is over. One notable player who’s been tagged is Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner remains unsigned, and there has been little progress on a deal according to recent reports. Fellow Rams defensive star Aaron Donald might be one reason why.

The Rams “would probably have a hard time giving big money to Joyner before finally extending the contract of” Donald, writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Given how much talk there has been about when Donald will get the contract extension he’s been wanting for over a year now, it might be bad optics for the team to extend Joyner first. Rams fans have been growing impatient with the front office over their inability to cut a deal with Donald. Donald held out all summer last year and ended up missing the first game of the season. If the Rams are reluctant to pay Joyner before Donald is locked up, it could mean Joyner heads into 2019 an unrestricted free agent.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Breaking down the Eagles’ secondary, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com sees a three way battle for the team’s final cornerback spot between De’Vante BausbyD.J. Killings, and Chandon Sullivan. Shorr-Parks thinks Bausby is clearly in the lead and well on his way to a roster spot, whereas Killings and Sullivan will need to have “amazing” training camps and preseasons to make the 53-man roster.
  • Dez Bryant will end up with the Redskins when he finally signs, predicts Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com (Twitter link). Fitzgerald, a salary cap expert, thinks Bryant “won’t get much” in terms of compensation on whatever deal he signs.
  • In case you missed it, another player who’s been franchised tagged and is looking for an extension, DeMarcus Lawrence, will meet with the Cowboys next week to talk about a deal.

 

Latest On 49ers, Dez Bryant

As the NFL turns its calendar to July, most of the rumors connecting free agent wideout Dez Bryant to the 49ers have been initiated by Bryant himself, as the veteran pass-catcher indicated in a May Instagram post that he’d like to sign with San Francisco. But it’s not only Bryant that’s stirring the Bay Area pot, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, who indicates league insiders’ “best guess” is that Bryant will end up signing with the 49ers.

The 49ers still have more than $45MM in available cap space, so inking Bryant — who is reportedly looking for a one-year deal after turning down a three-year pact from the Ravens earlier this year — shouldn’t present a financial obstacle. Roster-wise, San Francisco boasts Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin as its top two receivers, but doesn’t have much depth after that, with Trent Taylor, rookie Dante Pettis, and Aldrick Robinson lurking as secondary options.

Even if he were to play a reduced snap count behind Garcon and Goodwin, Bryant — who stands 6’2″ — could give the 49ers a larger red-zone weapon than they currently possess (both Garcon and Goodwin are 6’0″ or shorter). Bryant, 29, certainly comes with risk, as he hasn’t topped 1,000 yards receiving since 2014, while his 12.1 yards per reception in 2017 was the lowest average of his career. But he can still post up opposing defensive backs near the end zone, and would be a tantalizing option for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

While a number of teams — including the Packers and Cardinals — have been tangentially linked to Bryant since he was released by the Cowboys, no club aside from the Ravens has been directly interested in the former first-round pick. In fact, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com has reported many teams are unwilling to consider Bryant even at the minimum salary. Bryant hadn’t been expected to land a new deal until July, so the clock is now ticking on the veteran wideout.

In a recent Pro Football Rumors poll, readers agreed with Freeman’s NFL sources that Bryant will ultimately land in San Francisco, with the Patriots finishing as a strong second choice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Team Will Sign Dez Bryant?

Dez Bryant, to our knowledge, has not drawn a significant offer since turning down a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens. As his market stagnated, Bryant’s camp leaked word that he would not be signing until July. Well, here we are.

We’ve heard very little about Bryant over the last four weeks, so it’s anyone’s guess as to where he’ll land. And, if it’s anyone’s guess, it might as well be our guess. Before we ask you predict where Bryant will land, let’s run down some of the possible contenders: 

49ers Bryant has openly lobbied for an opportunity with the Niners and there’s reason to believe that could become a reality. The 49ers stayed away from the wide receivers at the top of this year’s free agent market, but Bryant’s price tag figures to be a lot lower than that of Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson. With more than $45MM in cap room – good for third-highest in the NFL – the Niners certainly have the space to take on a player of Bryant’s caliber. And, because they have an eye on the future, they could be willing to give Bryant the one-year platform deal he is seeking. The 49ers have some talent at wide receiver including Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, but none of the receivers expected to make the roster are above 6’0″. Bryant – billed at 6’2″ – would give provide them with a tall red zone target.

Bills – Outside of No. 1 WR Kelvin Benjamin, the Bills have tons of question marks at the position. Bryant is the best wide receiver still available (or, at least, the biggest name left), so he could make some sense as the player to supplant the unreliable Zay Jones as the team’s No. 2 WR. Bills GM Brandon Beane didn’t sound enthusiastic when talking about Bryant back in April, but he didn’t explicitly rule him out either.

Cardinals – After losing both John Brown and Jaron Brown, the Cardinals could be interested in adding some talent to their wide receiver group. Then again, they may already feel comfortable with J.J. Nelson, rookie Christian Kirk, and free agent addition Brice Butler behind Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have upwards of $13MM in cap space, according to the NFLPA, so they have the cash necessary to sign Bryant if they want him.

Cowboys – When the Cowboys released Bryant earlier this year, they were not aware of Jason Witten‘s impending retirement. Months later, could they circle back to Bryant in order to fortify their lackluster WR group? Probably not, but we’ll put them on the board anyway and let you decide.

Eagles – After Bryant was released, he indicated that he wanted to play in the NFC East in order to face the Cowboys pay twice in 2018. The Eagles, in theory, could make some sense now that Torrey Smith is out of the picture and Alshon Jeffery is out for the offseason with a shoulder injury. However, the Eagles already have a new veteran in Mike Wallace and their $6MM in cap space might not be enough to land Bryant, even if they wanted him.

Packers – The Packers have been speculatively linked to Bryant over the last few months. Some see a potential fit, but others, such as Aaron Rodgers, do not. The Packers are now without Jordy Nelson, but they drafted three wide receivers while retaining Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Geronimo Allison, so there might not be any room in the inn.

Patriots – The Patriots will be without Julian Edelman for the first four games of the year, which could lead them to consider Bryant. They also have a history of signing older big-name wide receivers with reputation problems, including Randy Moss and Chad Johnson (some worked out better than others), so the possibility of adding the mercurial Bryant cannot be discounted. On the other hand, they have plenty of weapons to get them through the opening month of the season in Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson, not to mention Malcolm Mitchell and speedy rookie Braxton Berrios, who may or may not make the final cut. There’s also a tight end by the name of Rob Gronkowski who should be able to catch an extra pass or two while Edelman is out.

Saints – With a wide receiver group of Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., free agent addition Cameron Meredith, third round pick Tre’Quan Smith, and Brandon Coleman, is there room for Bryant? Not necessarily, but there also wasn’t a clear spot for Adrian Peterson in New Orleans before the Saints signed him last year. The Saints have a little more than $7MM in cap space, which could be enough to sign Bryant depending on his market at this stage of the offseason and his desire to play for a contender.

Redskins – Former teammate Orlando Scandrick has advocated for Washington to sign Bryant and the Redskins would give him the opportunity to face the Cowboys twice per year. The problem, however, is that the Redskins seem pretty set at the top of the order with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Paul Richardson.

Titans – The Titans have talent at wide receiver, but Rishard Matthews‘ support staff is decidedly inexperienced. With Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe all yet to celebrate their 24th birthday, could the Titans consider Bryant? In theory, he would add some experience to the group, but he might not be a great influence on the younger guys.

Click below to make your choice and defend your decision in the comment section:

Extra Points: Dez, Robinson, Darnold, Jets

Some assorted notes from around the NFL as we wrap up this Thursday evening…

  • A fan recently told free agent wideout Dez Bryant that he should be focused on finding a new team, prompting the veteran to respond. “The last problem I have is finding a team..I’m in a world you will never understand,” Bryant said on Instagram (via Joey Hayden of the Dallas News). The receiver has indicated that he’s received calls from teams but is waiting for the ideal fit, and his recent comments seemingly echo this sentiment. We heard earlier this month that Bryant likely wouldn’t join a new team until July.
  • The Browns signed offensive lineman Greg Robinson earlier this week, and ESPN’s Field Yates tweets some of the financial details of the deal. It will be a one-year, $790K contract for the former second-overall pick, and the deal contains no guaranteed money. Robinson started six games for the Lions last season, but he was ultimately released by the team in November. Robinson isn’t guaranteed to make Cleveland’s roster, and he’ll likely compete for a reserve role.
  • The Jets are predictably convinced that they have a “star in the making” in quarterback Sam Darnold, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.TV. The coaching staff also believes that it’s only a matter of time before he replaces veteran Josh McCown, and he should supplant Teddy Bridgewater as the second-stringer sooner than later. Of course, a lot of Darnold’s 2017 stock will depend on his performance during training camp and the preseason.
  • We learned earlier today that Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson pled no contest to charges of reckless driving. As a result, he’ll get six months of “non-reporting” probation.

West Rumors: Bryant, Butler, Broncos

Somewhat recently, Dez Bryant connected himself to the 49ers as he scanned the landscape in hopes of latching on with a second NFL franchise. Now, others may be pointing in that direction as well. The 49ers have been the team to which Bryant’s been most connected, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report writes. The 29-year-old wide receiver turned down an offer from the Ravens, and they moved on to Willie Snead. Now, Bryant is not expected to sign with a team before training camp. The 49ers made a concerted effort to avoid high-profile wideouts in free agency. However, Bryant’s price tag will not be what Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson — two players the 49ers made a point to steer clear of — commanded, perhaps inducing the Niners to make an exception. San Francisco holds more than $46MM in cap space; that’s the third-most in the league. And without a proven tight end or much size at the receiver spot (none of the current cast expected to make the team is over 6-foot), they could be in need of a red zone threat like Bryant.

This will focus on wide receiver situations out west. Here’s the latest:

  • Although Brice Butler signed with the Cardinals a few months ago, he’s experienced a shaky offseason in the desert. He may not be a lock for their 53-man roster, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com writes. The Cards have a void opposite Larry Fitzgerald after losing multiple contributors, but they still have JJ Nelson and 2017 third-rounder Chad Williams, and drafted Christian Kirk. And the Cards just signed Greg Little as well, perhaps indicating they’re not happy with their receiver situation at present. Butler chose Arizona over a host of other suitors.
  • The Broncos added two receivers in the draft this year, and both Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are locks to make the roster. This could leave a player the team was once high on out of a job. Carlos Henderson did not see the field as a rookie, spending all year on IR with a thumb injury. The 2017 third-round pick is now dealing with a hamstring malady, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes (subscription required). “(The injury) started in Phase 2 and hasn’t gotten better,” Vance Joseph said, via Jhabvala. “He’s got to get back on the field if he wants to make this football team.” Denver also has Jordan Taylor and Isaiah McKenzie vying for roster spots, with one of those two likely sticking around as the primary return man. Henderson produced eye-popping numbers at Louisiana Tech, and it would be a tad early for a team to give up on a third-rounder, but the slot target could be in danger of being cut by his first NFL team without having played in a regular-season game.
  • Speaking of injuries affecting camp battles, Brandon Marshall also had toe surgery this offseason, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The Seahawks already shelved the 13th-year pass-catcher in minicamp because of a hamstring issue, and it appears Marshall — who missed most of 2017 due to ankle surgery — may have a tough time on multiple fronts in making the team. Beyond Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks have Tyler Lockett and now Jaron Brown. They drafted Amara Darboh in the third round last year, and Henderson notes they are high on 2017 seventh-rounder David Moore.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp: 

Kaepernick probably stands as the most talented quarterback left on the open market, but his ongoing collusion case against the NFL complicated matters. It seems unlikely that he’ll land anywhere between now and the start of the season, but friend and former teammate Eric Reid probably has a better chance of signing somewhere, despite being in a similar boat. Recently, the duo was spotted working out together in California.

It seems like just yesterday that Murray was the league’s most fearsome running back. Unfortunately, Murray’s age has caught up to him to some extent and he was overshadowed last year in Tennessee by the younger Derrick HenryThe Titans dropped Murray in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Recently, the Saints tried to include Murray in their cattle call for running backs, but he declined the invite.

Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. It’s possible that Murray and Peterson won’t sign unless a running back injury opens up an opportunity for them. Teams could also steer clear of Peterson altogether given his desire for a starring role despite his lack of star performance over the last two years.

Bryant is the biggest name on this list, but we shouldn’t expect to see him sign anywhere until July. There have been conflicting reports on his market, but the latest word indicates that he is receiving interest, despite concerns about his demeanor in the locker room.

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Dez Bryant Unlikely To Sign Until July

Dez Bryant likely won’t sign with a club before training camp begins in July, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Rapoport is told the wide receiver has received plenty of interest, but he’s staying patient until he finds the right opportunity. 

[RELATED: Several Big Name NFL Free Agents Still Available]

The right opportunity, for Bryant, means a winning club with the right offense that will give him a one-year prove-it deal. Bryant has been unable to find the one-year deal he is seeking after rejecting a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens.

Rapoport’s report indicates that there is in fact a decent market for Bryant. Previously, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter heard that many teams were unwilling to consider the veteran, even at the league’s minimum salary.

Right now, it’s hard to say where Bryant will land. He has lobbied for the 49ers to sign him, but there has been no word of interest from SF. The Bills and Packers, meanwhile, do not appear to have him on the radar, despite the belief of some that he would be a logical fit. As Rapoport notes, a wide receiver injury in practice could open up a door somewhere for Bryant.

Bryant’s dropoff in performance is certainly a factor in his unemployment, but the perception that he has been difficult in the locker room is probably also a barrier to a deal. Even in a down 2017, Bryant managed 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer: 

Of course, Kaepernick’s situation is more complicated than the rest. Lately, the only updates we’ve heard regarding Kaepernick have been tied to his pending collusion case against the NFL. Former teammate Reid is certainly closer to the NFL radar after an April meeting with the Bengals, but he also believes teams are shying away from him due to his participation in anthem protests. Reid filed a grievance of his own against the NFL in May and has been spotted working out with Kaepernick.

Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.

Bryant says he has no regrets about turning down a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, but right now it looks like he blew his opportunity at a solid free agent deal. Reportedly, many teams are unwilling to consider him for even the league minimum, so it seems unlikely that he’ll find the lucrative one-year contract he’s seeking. On the plus side, his former employer says multiple teams have checked in on him.

Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.

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Teams Have Asked Cowboys About Dez Bryant

Since rejecting the Ravens’ offer back in April, Dez Bryant hasn’t been able to generate a whole lot of reported interest from NFL teams. However, Cowboys’ Vice President Stephen  Jones said plenty of teams have checked in on the team’s former star receiver.

“You know at the (NFL owners) meetings I have had different conversations about him,” Jones told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Dallas Star-Telegram. “At the competition committee meeting, some of the coaches there speak to it. I’m sure other coaches have called our coaches and wanted input on him. The greatest thing about Dez is he is a fierce competitor. I think he is now more driven and more competitive than he has ever been. We wish him nothing but the best.”

After having spent eight years in Dallas, the Cowboys let go of the 29-year-old is mid-April. Bryant did get an offer from the Ravens, but the three-time Pro Bowler rejected the multiyear deal. Reports indicated that the receiver was seeking a lucrative one-year contract that would boost his value for next year’s free agency.

Despite his demands, Jones expressed surprise that Bryant still hasn’t caught on with a team.

“I am sure Dez is being thoughtful,” Jones said on Tuesday. ”I don’t know the details as to why he hasn’t picked a home. I am sure he is being very thoughtful about it. I am sure he has good people talking to him too. I am sure at the end of the day he is being thoughtful about what his next steps should be. I am sure he is working hard. No one is rooting for Dez more than we are.”

Of course, teams may be underwhelmed by Bryant’s 2017 season and are ignoring him entirely. The wideout played in 16 games for the first time since 2014, but he finished with only 69 receptions for 838 yards, and six touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Notes: Foles, Bryant, Shittu

A recent reported indicated that the Browns had offered the Eagles the 35th pick in the 2018 draft for Nick Foles at some point this offseason before they ultimately ended up trading for Tyrod Taylor. The report stated that the Eagles approached Foles with the deal, that Foles shot it down, and so the Eagles turned it down out of respect for his wishes.

Foles is now pushing back on that claim, saying there’s no truth to it. Foles said he “didn’t turn down any trade” and added that the first time he heard of the proposed deal was when people started texting him about the article (Twitter link via The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Zach Berman).

If the trade was indeed offered by the Browns and considered by the Eagles and it was not shot down by Foles, it’s an indicator that the Eagles are confident in the health of Carson Wentz as he continues to work his way back from a torn ACL.

Here’s some more news on the Eagles as they continue OTAs: