When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant in 2010 and assigned him the No. 88 jersey, some fans were concerned that he wouldn't be able to live up to the high expectations that come with that number. Bryant's talent was never in question, but some wondered whether or not he had what it takes to match the production of all-time greats like Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Dez is coming off an NFL-leading 16-touchdown season. In fact, Dez Bryant already has more career touchdowns than Drew despite playing in less than half as many games, and he's just 10 touchdowns away from passing Irvin as well. Dez is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL today and has proven himself worthy of donning the No. 88 on his jersey.
The original 88, Drew Pearson, thinks Dez can be even better.
"I think Dez can be as good as he wants to be," Pearson told CowboysHQ in an exclusive interview while attending the Children's Cancer Fund luncheon in Dallas. "He's just got to let all of this off-the-field stuff take care of itself - as far as agents, and negotiating and dealing with the Cowboys front office. Just worry about himself and what he does on that field. That dictates everything. If he doesn't perform on the field, then all that other stuff doesn't matter. He's gotta go out there and continue to play like he has been and even better."
Dez Bryant's contract negotiations have been a hot topic for about a year now. The topic has gotten even hotter lately with the separation of Bryant and his mentor David Wells making headlines - although as a practical matter Wells has nothing to do with the contract negotiations as Fish has already pointed out in our exclusive interview with Dez here, in which Bryant expresses "trust'' as the issue driving his decisions. However, that hasn't stopped the media from stirring up rumors that this divorce will throw some sort of wrench in the Cowboys' plans to sign Dez to the sort of "Cowboys For Life'' long-term deal we've illustrated here.
This might have some folks worried, and every day that goes by before the July 15 deadline to move Bryant from the franchise tag to a new deal could be considered a day lost. But Pearson isn't among the worriers.
"I think eventually he will sign a long-term deal because I think the Cowboys realize what they have there and they don't want anyone else in the league to have him," Pearson said.
While Pearson is confident that the Cowboys will get a deal done with Dez, he feels the Cowboys need to change their approach with the young receiver before that can happen.
"They've gotta trust him," Pearson said. "He's made great strides off the field in his personal life. They need to believe that and trust in him and take the reins off him. Let him be a man. At his age, 26, he deserves that opportunity. The Cowboys just need to lighten up on him a little bit."
Re-signing Dez will go a long way in helping the Cowboys maintain their recent success. Dez is as talented as any receiver in the NFL and having him on the field greatly increases the Cowboys' chances of winning on any given Sunday. However, as important as Dez is to the team, he isn't the most vital piece to this their success. That title belongs to Tony Romo, and Drew Pearson believes the time is now if this team wants to win a Super Bowl.
"I think the Cowboys window with Romo is right now," said Pearson. "That's what you've got to do in today's NFL - you've got to recognize your window. This is a 34-year-old QB and a 72-year-old owner, the time is now. We're not grooming anyone to replace Romo. We're putting all of our eggs in that basket and hopefully he will lead us to a championship."
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There was a particular Cowboys flavor at the AMC's last night at AT&T Stadium, with Tony Romo setting the tone by ... working blue:
Romo: "We're the Dallas Cowboys, we have real balls." pic.twitter.com/9Z9s69DP4b— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) April 20, 2015
"We're the Dallas Cowboys. We have real balls.''