Dez Bryant

This Date In Transactions History: Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas Sign Extensions

With the deadline looming for extension-eligible players, two of the league’s top wideouts signed lucrative extensions with their organizations on this day eight years ago. On July 15, 2015, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas signed new deals with their squads.

The two 2010 first-round WRs were slapped with the franchise tag before they could hit unrestricted free agency, and negotiations with their respective teams hadn’t necessarily gone smoothly. In fact, the NFL Players Association threatened to file a collusion complaint against the Cowboys and Broncos over the lack of extension progress, and both Bryant and Thomas began teased holdouts as the July 15 deadline approached.

Ultimately, both players ended up getting their desired pacts from their new squads, with the duo seeking deals that approached Calvin Johnson‘s $16.21MM average annual salary. Bryant and Thomas ultimately signed similar five-year, $70MM deals; the two players were previously attached to franchise tags worth $12.8MM.

At that point of his career, Bryant had established himself as one of the league’s elite wideouts. At the time of his signing, Bryant hadn’t missed a game in three seasons, and he was coming off his third-straight campaign with at least 88 catches and 12 touchdowns. He took it to another level during his contract year, hauling in a career-high 16 touchdowns while tying a career-best 15.0 yards-per-catch mark.

Unfortunately for the receiver and the Cowboys, that 2014 campaign that preceded his extension was the last time Bryant would earn an All-Pro selection in his career. His 2015 season was limited to only eight games while he dealt with a lingering foot injury, although he did return to Pro Bowl status in 2016 after finishing with 50 catches and eight touchdowns in 13 games. Bryant managed to revert to his durable self during the 2017 season, appearing in all 16 games. However, his 12.1 yards-per-reception mark set a new career-low, and with two years remaining on his deal, the Cowboys moved on from the wideout.

Bryant joined the Saints for the 2018 season, but he ended up missing the year thanks to a torn Achilles. He sat out the 2019 season while seeking a new job before catching on with the Ravens in 2020. He caught six passes in six games for Baltimore, and he hasn’t earned an NFL contract since that gig.

The Broncos got a bit more production out of their extension with Thomas. Prior to signing his new deal, the receiver was coming off a three-year stretch where he averaged 99 receptions, 1,494 receiving yards, and close to 12 touchdowns per season (he added another five scores in five playoff games). While Thomas would never hit those numbers again, his first season under his new deal was still plenty productive. The wideout finished the year with 1,304 receiving yards and six touchdowns before earning his lone Super Bowl championship.

Thomas would only have one more 1,000-yard season after 2015. Despite losing Peyton Manning under center for the 2016 season, the receiver still earned a Pro Bowl nod after compiling 1,083 yards. Inconsistent QB play led to Thomas finishing with only 949 receiving yards in 2017, and with the Broncos eyeing a rebuild in 2018, Thomas was traded to the Texans. Following a brief stint with the Patriots during the 2019 preseason, Thomas caught on with the Jets, hauling in 36 receptions in 11 games. After not playing during the 2020 season, Thomas announced his retirement.

Teams are naturally cautious when it comes to handing out big-money extensions. You can’t blame the Cowboys nor the Broncos for extending their star wideouts, but it also shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise that neither player ended up completing their deals with their respective teams.

This Date In Transactions History: Saints Sign Dez Bryant

On this date in 2018, Dez Bryant agreed to join the Saints. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned for the one-time Cowboys star.

Bryant’s one-year, $1.25MM pact was modest, considering the three Pro Bowls on his resume. However, at that juncture of his career, it made sense. The former first-rounder was coming off of three straight down years, culminating in his Cowboys release.

Bryant reportedly favored the one-year deal over longer commitments — the veteran figured he could restore his value before re-entering free agency in the offseason. He famously rejected a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, only to languish in free agency for the first half of 2018.

In New Orleans, Bryant was expected to provide Drew Brees with another talented weapon behind Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Tre’Quan Smith. The organization had also worked out wideouts Brandon Marshall and Kamar Aiken, but they seemingly preferred Bryant’s upside. We’ll never really know if New Orleans’ inkling was correct; only two days after signing his contract, Bryant tore his Achilles tendon at practice, ending his season before it could even begin.

Bryant hit free agency in 2019, but never signed. He finally got a second chance in 2020, joining the Ravens’ practice squad at the age of 32. Bryant eventually made it to the active roster, but registered just six receptions for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

In early 2021, Bryant said that he wanted to continue playing. But, with the season more than halfway over, we haven’t heard his name mentioned. After celebrating his 33rd birthday last week, it’s possible that we’ve seen Bryant play his final NFL snap.

Dez Bryant Wants To Join Cardinals

Former Cowboys star Dez Bryant says he would like to join up with the Cardinals (via TMZ). It’s not clear whether the interest is mutual, however.

I think that would be dope being next to my boy D Hop [DeAndre Hopkins], [and] Christian Kirk, [and] Kyler Murray,” Bryant said. “I think they have a dope offense. I feel like they got a dope defense. I think they got a dope coach … If I had to choose, yeah, if that opportunity presented itself, I think I would take it.”

The Cardinals offense is, in fact, dope, which means that the team doesn’t necessarily have room for Bryant. A Larry Fitzgerald retirement could open up a spot for Bryant but, even then, there’d be a drop-off in production. Bryant, who will turn 33 this year, had just six grabs in six games for 47 yards and two touchdowns. No one expected Bryant to leapfrog Marquise Brown in the Ravens’ pecking order, but Bryant was also far behind Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV on the depth chart. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald had 54 catches, 409 yards, and one touchdown in a relative down year — and he’s about five years older than Bryant.

During his heyday with the Cowboys, Bryant totaled 7,459 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns. His best season came in 2014 when he led NFL with 16 receiving touchdowns, leading to his five-year, $70MM Dallas deal.

Dez Bryant Doesn’t Want To Return To Ravens

Dez Bryant wants to continue playing, but he doesn’t want to move forward with Baltimore. Recently, the wide receiver expressed frustration with the Ravens on social media and indicated that he’ll be heading elsewhere. 

I realized quick Baltimore wasn’t the place for me,” Bryant tweeted. “No bad blood. That’s their way of doing things so you gotta respect it.

Bryant, who will turn 33 during the 2021 season, had a grand total of six grabs for 47 yards and two touchdowns for Baltimore. After a long layoff, Bryant was hardly featured in the Ravens’ offense across six games. No one expected Bryant to leapfrog Marquise Brown in the pecking order, but the longtime Cowboys star apparently hoped to be on a par with Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV. He was not, and he feels that his lack of experience with the Ravens’ playbook played a role.

My chemistry [with quarterback Lamar Jackson] was good on and off the field. But it was guys there before me who understood the offensive concepts better than me,” Bryant said. “You can’t jeopardize that.”

The Ravens seem to agree. Wanting to get younger at the position, the Ravens will allow Bryant to explore new opportunities in March.

Dez Bryant Unlikely To Return To Ravens?

After two seasons out of the game, it was great to see Dez Bryant back on an NFL field this past season with the Ravens. If Bryant wants at least one more run in 2021, it sounds like he might need to find a new home though.

Bryant is unlikely to return to Baltimore next year, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes. Zrebiec thinks the team is looking to get younger at the position, which makes sense considering Lamar Jackson‘s receiving corps was underwhelming in 2020. Zrebiec notes he was a strong locker room presence, but Bryant didn’t play a huge role on the field, finishing with only six catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

Bryant signed with the Ravens’ practice squad in late October, and was promoted to the active roster shortly after. Perhaps the most notable part of his season was a bizarre moment in December when Bryant was pulled from the field just moments before kickoff in a game against the Cowboys after apparently testing positive for COVID-19. Bryant was unhappy, then said that he tested negative and would be sitting out the rest of the season rather than deal with the league’s protocols.

He eventually backed away from that claim and returned to the roster quickly. Speaking of Dallas, Bryant played his last season there in 2017 when he started all 16 games and had 838 yards and six touchdowns. He sat out the first half of the 2018 season before signing with the Saints. Unfortunately, he tore an Achilles immediately after signing with New Orleans before he could appear in a game.

He then sat out the entire 2019 campaign and it appeared his career could be over before he resurfaced with Baltimore. He turned 32 in November, and it’s unclear if he wants to play in 2021 anyway. One of the best receivers in the league for a handful of years, he won’t get any real guaranteed money if he does find a new team to sign with.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/15/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: S Derwin James; James remains on IR

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

  • Waived: CB Brandon Williams

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ravens’ Dez Bryant Tests Negative For COVID

Word of a positive COVID-19 test forced the Ravens to pull Dez Bryant just prior to kickoff earlier this week. Now, the wide receiver says that he has tested negative for the coronavirus in two subsequent tests (via Twitter).

I tested negative back to back for covid and I’m not excited about it,” said Bryant.

After the first positive test, Bryant said that he would call it quits for the rest of the season rather waiting to go through the league’s protocols. Now, his plans aren’t exactly clear. For what it’s worth, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says that he plans to have Bryant back once he comes off of the COVID-19/reserve list (Twitter link).

Negative tests notwithstanding, the Ravens have placed Bryant on their reserve/COVID list. Bryant is ineligible to practice until being removed from the virus list. It has, to say the least, been an interesting week for the veteran wide receiver.

The former Cowboys Pro Bowler lobbied NFL teams for a long time before he got his opportunity to return with the Ravens. Since signing with Baltimore, he hasn’t been used much. His only registered stats came in Week 11 against the Titans, when he caught four passes for 28 yards.

After beating Bryant’s former team without him, the Ravens will turn their attention to the Browns on Monday night.

Dez Bryant Tests Positive For COVID-19

The Ravens have another COVID-19 situation on their hands. They pulled Dez Bryant off the field during warmups, and the veteran announced (via Twitter) he was informed he tested positive for the coronavirus.

We are less than a half-hour from the start of what would have been a reunion game for Bryant, but he is now out of tonight’s Ravens-Cowboys matchup. Known for announcing news of his career on his Twitter account, the 32-year-old receiver subsequently said he no longer intends to play this season (Twitter link). That would be an interesting development, considering how long the former Cowboys Pro Bowler spent trying to return to the NFL, but this season has obviously featured numerous unusual announcements.

As of 6:50pm CT, Week 13’s Baltimore-Dallas game remains a go. But considering what the Ravens just went through with the virus, this could be a sticky situation. Contact tracing could lead the Ravens to pulling other players out of tonight’s game. This news transpiring so close to kickoff represents a new hurdle for the NFL in this historically unusual season.

After the season began, the NFL moved to game-day testing. Interestingly, no other Ravens tested positive and no Bryant high-risk close contacts have been identified, Tom Pelissero of tweets. The NFL’s latest Tuesday game will still take place. This confusing situation went down because a Tuesday-morning Bryant PCR test twice came back inconclusive and a subsequent point-of-care test came back positive, according to Pelissero (on Twitter).

The Ravens signed Bryant to their practice squad earlier this season and have used him sparingly in multiple games. Bryant caught four passes for 28 yards in Week 11 against the Titans and played in last week’s Steelers game — one that featured a decimated Ravens squad after their COVID outbreak. The Ravens still have several players on their reserve/COVID list, including pass catchers Mark Andrews and Willie Snead.

Ravens Sign WR Dez Bryant To 53-Man Roster

After having been promoted twice, Dez Bryant will no longer have to ride the Ravens’ practice squad shuttle. The veteran wideout announced on Twitter that he’s been signed to Baltimore’s active roster.

The 32-year-old joined the Ravens practice squad in late October. He was promoted for Baltimore’s Week 9 win over the Colts, but he only played a pair of snaps. He saw much more playing time when he was promoted for the Ravens’ Week 11 loss to the Titans, hauling in four catches for 28 yards while appearing in 54 percent of his team’s offensive snaps.

Along with tight end Mark Andrews, receivers Marquise Brown and Willie Snead will continue to lead Baltimore’s inconsistent receiving corps. However, Bryant could continue seeing a role ahead of the likes of Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, and James Proche.

“We’ll just keep working, and we’ll see where that leads moving forward,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said last week (via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley). “I don’t think there’s any real timeline right now, but I do think that if Dez keeps progressing, he will definitely become a factor in what we do.”

Bryant missed all of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, so despite having three 1,000-yard seasons (plus a pair of 800-plus-yard campaigns) on his resume, the veteran had to settle for a practice squad deal in 2020. While there certainly wasn’t much risk for either side, the move has clearly worked out for both the player and the organization.

Ravens Promote Dez Bryant, Luke Willson

The Ravens will give Dez Bryant another opportunity. After not activating the veteran wide receiver last week, Baltimore will promote him ahead of Sunday’s game against Tennessee, per’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Bryant did not see much action (two offensive snaps) in his Ravens debut — Week 9 against the Colts — but any playing time marked a major step for the former Pro Bowler. Bryant missed all of the 2018 and ’19 seasons.

Having Bryant active gives the Ravens another option in the passing game. Baltimore has not come especially close to matching its 2019 offensive dominance, having lost multiple All-Pro O-linemen from that record-setting unit. This season, Lamar Jackson ranks 18th in QBR and has struggled to connect with his top targets. Baltimore’s passing attack ranks 31st in the NFL.

While the now-32-year-old Bryant should not be expected to show his Cowboys form, he does have three 1,000-yard seasons and two more 800-plus-yard campaigns on his resume. He will join Willie Snead as veteran targets available for Jackson on Sunday.

The Ravens are also promoting tight end Luke Willson and tackle Will Holden from their practice squad. Willson’s promotion comes shortly after the Ravens lost blocking tight end Nick Boyle for the season.