“We Franchise Tagged him, but that doesnt mean we will let the year play out” – Stephen Jones, COO , Dallas Cowboys
Heading into 2015, Dez Bryant’s future was looking good. Of all the players heading into free agency, Bryant had probably the best negotiating position in the league. 3 seasons of 1000+ yards receiving, and 12 or more TD’s had him as the man almost every single team in the country was putting together a package for. Off field issues seemingly behind him, Bryant was Mr Reliability, the guy who would catch anything your QB threw up, and take it all the way. How much would it cost to pick him up? Numbers were being crunched all across the league.
And the Cowboys knew it. So what do you do when arguably your star man is about to walk away .
In doing so, the Cowboys gambled that their Pro-Bowl offensive line was strong enough to make the business of getting another Running Back in to replace DeMarco Murray’s 1845 rushing yards without adversely affecting the team. And when faced with a difficult decision like that, its hard to understand what the thinking was. In business, you look to take the lowest possible hit in earnings to keep your best players. With the Franchise tag being the average of the top 5 players in his position, keeping Murray for another year would have cost around $9m , which would be a cool $4m less than it would take to keep Bryant. And yet Bryant was the choice of the two. Whether it be that the Cowboys didnt think Murray’s salary demands were realistic after 2015/16 , or that Bryant’s were, they plumped for Dez.
However there’s another way to look at it. Guess who?
Next year, assuming he sticks around in Detroit, Calvin Johnson will earn $24,008,000. This season alone, he will earn $20,558,000. And you have to believe that, comparing numbers, Bryant can ask for that kind of money in the first few years of his contract, let alone the last few years, where players tend to earn their highest numbers. Murray had a year that nobody will forget, a breakout year that very few have matched in Franchise history, but it was only his second season over 1000yds , and it was achieved on a phenomenal amount of carries (392). That is a lot of hits in a short period of time, and unlike some positions, a Running Back’s career can be very very short. WR’s on the other hand, can still be clawing in passes and winning Superbowl’s well into their 30’s , and Bryant has that feel to him. After the controversy of last seasons “No Control” catch in the playoff’s, Bryant may well have wanted another shot at the title with a QB he knows intimately, and feels that regardless of how the season goes, he can still get Megatron money next year, and stay with the Cowboys. Or he may have intimated to Jones’ that he wants out, so the Cowboys took the opportunity to get another year out of their star at the lowest possible price. Either way, the Franchise tag should guarantee the Cowboys at least one more shot at the playoffs before having to spend the big money to tie down one of the league’s biggest stars.
And the risk is almost entirely with Dez.
As has been shown from previous Franchise tags, by not negotiating that huge deal, and allowing the club to franchise you for another season, the possibility exists of an injury that lessens playing time and numbers. When it comes to contract negotiations, being signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation may well increase his profile, but teams will only look at your yardages and touchdowns when it comes to how many zeroes go on the end of that contract. Ironically, DeMarco Murray got his mega contract with the Eagles on the back of Dez being franchised, and might prove to be the biggest winner from this situation.