Dez Bryant has a football plan first. And a financial plan second. And the two plans are connected in ways we see as fuel to a coming contract extension that can easily be worth $100 million.
Start here: Dallas getting tackle Tyron Smith his $109-mil extension during training camp did not hinder a similiar deal for Dez; it helped it. Tyron's deal is structured with a small enough signing bonus that room remains for Bryant to ink a twin-brother deal. (See [a href="http://dal.scout.com/story/1428062-inside-the-new-deal-of-cowboys-tyron-smith?s=112" target="_blank"> our coverage of the Smith Cowboys-for-life deal here.)
Next: Recognize Bryant's view that he's a top-five NFL receiver -- or, as he stated late Monday: “I believe a player should get paid what he deserves. If I’m top five, I’m top five. If I’m top three, I’m top three. If I’m top two, I’m top two. It is what it is.”
What it is: Dez is a Pro Bowler with last-year numbers of 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those numbers are even more impressive when one looks at red-zone performance. 10 of those 13 touchdowns were on Bryant’s 21 targets inside the opponent’s 20-yard line; putting him in the conversion company of tight ends and red-zone specialists.
Additionally, over the past three seasons, only four players have amassed over 3,000 yards and 30 receiving touchdowns. One, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, is the highest paid receiver in the game. Another, the Saints’ Jimmy Graham, is the highest paid tight end in the game. The fourth, Jordy Nelson in Green Bay, received a pricey four-year extension this past weekend.
Bryant’s current 2014 salary, between base and workout bonus, is $2.03 million. So how does that jump to him being a $100-Million Man?
It jumps because both sides are readying to jump at what Bryant himself calls a "big chance'' that a deal gets done before the Sept. 7 start of the regular season.
Anyone who has been following the Cowboys specifically and NFL salaries in general know that the true value of a contract lies in the guaranteed money. That normally consists of the signing bonus, as well as the first couple years of base salary. It has become very rare for a player to make it to the end of a substantial second contract in today’s NFL. While the total value of every deal gets the headlines, the guaranteed money is really all that matters.
So let's do a deal. ...
Dallas has set up its salary cap to give the team major flexibility starting with the 2016 season. That seems to be the “reboot” benchmark for the roster. For that reason, Bryant’s coming base salaries might remain relatively low. However, a seven-year deal will allow Dallas to restructure Bryant’s base salary at that 2016 point and even beyond, with the addition of the ever famous voidable year that the team has become enamored with.
The rest will all be in the negotiations. We say you can reasonably expect Bryant to get a seven-year deal, based on Dallas’ history. That you can reasonably expect the average annual salary to be between $13 and $16 million, based on the NFL landscape. That you can reasonably expect the fully guaranteed portion of the deal to be between $30 and $40 million.
Would it be out of the question for Bryant to get a six-year extension with almost $100 million of new money, including a $20 million signing bonus? Here’s how something like that might look on a year-by-year basis.
|Season||Age As Of Sep 1||Base Salary||Prorated Bonus||Wrkt/Rstr Bonus||Cap Hit|
This is, of course, one of a thousand different ways the deal can be configured. But know that the Cowboys are set to make headlines with their deals. ... That the average annual salary of $14.3 million over the course of the deal clears the mix of lesser talents ... and that it's a nice, big, round number that agents like.
If the Cowboys guaranteed Dez' base salary for 2014, 2015 and half of 2016 (with injury guarantees for all of 2016 and some or all of 2017), then the “real” money if the Bryant deal sits at around $35 million. Dallas could easily add in clauses that guarantee base salaries if he’s on the roster at the beginning of the league years. And, of course, this isn’t including any kind of performance escalators that could be substituted for some of the base salaries.
On the other side, the guaranteed years and the signing bonus proration means that Dallas could walk away from the player should there be any negative acts. They would be looking at $10 million of dead money, but that could be spread over the course of two seasons and the team has shown they do not have a problem with playing this particular game of accounting.
Remember, these are OUR numbers and ideas and not necessarily reflective of exactly where negotiations are going. But you can see how they can work for the Joneses under the cap. And you can see how they can work for Dez Bryant as he strategically makes certain the world knows he's a football-first guy, thus further endearing himself to the ownership and to the public.
Dez Bryant as a $100-Million Man? These are real numbers and they represent a "big chance'' for all involved.
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