Cowboys Jones: Tag Coming For Dez Bryant
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones tells us to expect the Cowboys to to apply the franchise tag to wide receiver Dez Bryant by Monday's deadline - but that it only marks the beginning of negotiations that started accelerating again last Tuesday.
"I still think that it probably would be a stretch to think that we would have (a "Cowboys For Life'' contract) done by Monday and beat the franchise-tag deadline," Jones said. "It looks like we're eyeing a franchise tag on Dez, but (that) certainly won't stop us from working hard to get a long-term deal."
In fact, while Dallas and Dez were very close to a done deal last October (see FishTips below), Bryant's change of agents slowed the pace - until last Tuesday, when both parties started anew.
"Jerry and myself actually had a meeting with Tom Condon, his agent, Tuesday night," Jones said. "Had a good long visit."
We've predicted that "deadlines make deals'' (Jerry's own oft-spoken words) and Monday is one of those deadlines. But it's the beginning, not the end. Dallas needs to be cap-compliant on March 10. A long-term deal can be negotiated all the way to July 15 before the tag sticks for the year.
Bryant has expressed unhappiness with the idea of the tag. But we've stressed - and Jones made it clear with us -- the club is tagging Bryant to buy more negotiating time.
"We just don't want to lose his rights," said Jones. "We think Dez is a, you know, unique player and certainly a big part of what we do in terms of what we've done, our success, and certainly going forward.
"You know, we got a long period of time there where we can work, continue to work on doing something long term for Dez."
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Is there light at the end for The Dez Bryant Walmart Unicorn? Clearly, though that doesn't mean this unfortunate situation that has some media members in accusatory mode, cover-your-ass mode and James Bond-meets-Woodward-and-Bernstein mode is over. It's not about the Lancaster Police report that indicates no wrong-doing on Dez's part (see below), or about the Dallas Cowboys' reaction to it -- because the Cowboys, like the police, already reacted to the July 2011 incident ... in July 2011.
No, it's not about the "legal,'' as even former Dallas County DA Craig Watkins tells me he doesn't believe a crime was committed and he doesn't believe a video exists. Now it's about Dez' continued efforts to do the right thing ... and the Cowboys' negotiating efforts to do right by him.
I wrote the story of Bryant nearly signing a "Cowboys For Life'' deal at the end of October. So I am as aware of how close that contract was. I am also aware of reports that Dez was "low-balled'' in those negotiations and that they featured just a $20-million guarantee.
Respectfully, to those who believe that ... that number doesn't add up.
That number is fully HALF of what the Cowboys had just guaranteed Tyron Smith just a few weeks earlier. (To be clear: Tyron's deal is $40 mil guaranteed "for injury,'' "$32 mil guaranteed "for injury''; sliced either way, it's not the insult of $20 mil.) It's illogical to think Dallas would create two deals so drastically different for its two young stars ... and it's even more illogical to think Dez was close to signing that.
What could Dallas do here, sensibly?
Read the incomparable KD Drummond's breakdown of how to do a Dez "Cowboy For Life'' deal that includes a far more "fair'' $37 million in guaranteed money ... and I think you'll be closer to the eventual number than "$20 mil guaranteed.''
It was 25 years ago when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, sitting behind his big desk at Valley Ranch, told me (in regard to a contract for Issiac Holt or somebody), "Deadlines make deals.''
This is how the Joneses have always done their big business. They waited on head coach Jason Garrett's new deal this year. They waited on AT&T naming rights. They'll wait on this ...
Until the deadlines start rolling up.
March 2 is the deadline for franchise-tagging Dez, thus guaranteeing him a one-year guaranteed paycheck of about $12.8 million. But it does not start and stop there. The deadlines just BEGIN on March 2.
The next deadline is March 10; this is the day NFL teams must be cap-compliant. Look back above at the way we've structured out Bryant contract. The cap impact for 2015 is just $5 million. Now compare that to the cap impact if Dez is still a franchised player on March 10.
That will be $12.8 million. It fits. But that hamstrings Dallas.
There is one more deadline, July 15. The Cowboys have until that time to negotiate out of the tag and into a long-term deal. I still believe it'll be done by then. But knowing Jerry, I believe the evening of March 9 will be a very busy one inside of Valley Ranch, because ...
"Deadlines make deals.''
I joined FOX4's Edward Egros to kick around some of these Dez issues while hanging out at our place, The Maverick Bar ... c'mon by!) ... Here you go ...
"We blew it journalistically, we blew it legally and we vlew it ethically.'' I'm sticking with that.
An incident at a Walmart in 2011 that, when revealed, will ruin careers because it is "five times worse than Ray Rice''?
It has not worked out that way.
It is not clear that Dez was directly involved. It is not clear that anyone was involved in a Ray Rice-like action at all (though it sounds as ugly as it in confusing). I've heard from Walmart people that they don't keep surveillance videos laying about (usually 90 days is the limit) and I've heard from lawyers who say an alleged grainy black-and-white screenshot of an alleged incident at 6 a.m. allegedly involving a person would not stand up in court ...
And now we hear accusations from the some in the media that the Lancaster Police (and the DA's office, essentially, too) didn't do its job. ... and we hear DEMANDS that the Cowboys and Dez prove there is no unicorn.
As any lawyer knows ... as any journalist should know ... and certainly as any lawyer-turned-journalist knows:
The burden of proof is on the ACCUSER, not on the ACCUSED. "Semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit,'' or some Latin shit, right, Counselor?
I'm sticking with this one, as I have from early on in this process: There is no video. (Thus, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones telling me the technical truth - because "isn't'' doesn't mean "never was.'') There might be a disgruntled ex-buddy who was involved, in some way, with the Walmart incident ... and whose disgruntlement is the result of Dez parting ways with him.
Jump back to late October/early November. I talked on 105.3 The Fan, with Dez' help, about him "cleaning up'' his personal life. I did so while he a) almost signed a deal, b) changed agents and c) began seriously examining the who's, what's and where's of his finances.
Then I tweeted ... and Bryant retweeted:
Dez liked the idea of the world knowing he was taking charge.
Not everyone who had been in his circle up to that time liked the idea.
The rumor that ex-agent Eugene Parker is behind the extortion is absurd. The though that Parker was paying hush money to one of Dez' cronies is likely misguided. More likely is that Parker/Dez/David Wells paid a "salary'' or a "stipend'' to a crony, not as "hush money'' but as his wage for running errands.
I know for a fact that right around October/early November, Dez quit paying some of those people. That he was proud of the "clean-up.'' And that now, he might be paying for those positive actions via the negative actions of the jilted friend.
So when does the "screenshot'' come to light? Well, if a minor website wants to pay the "extorter'' $225,000, as TheDirty.com says it is willing to pay ... the "extorter'' gets his money ... but then goes to prison for extortion.
Probably not worth it.
"Jerry did this on purpose to be able to low-ball Dez in contract negotiations.''
The core of the Cowboys - Jerry, Stephen, Garrett, Romo, Witten the lot of 'em -- have spent YEARS working to gain Dez' trust and friendship and faith. And now the Joneses are going to destroy that to save a few million dollars? And then have under contract, long-term, a "destroyed'' Dez Bryant?
Jerry Jones has, in my 25 years of knowledge, "negatively negotiated'' twice. Once with Emmitt. Once with Gogan. Those were 20 years ago, and he regrets both.
Jones ia a positive-thinking wildcatter and a grandfatherly owner who probably loves his players too much ... not a negative naysayer who treats his players hatefully. He is a lot of things. He is not that.
(By the way, reports that Jerry was "angry'' with Dez' choice of Jay-Z as his rep, replacing Eugene Parker, are wrong in two ways:
One: Jay-Z didn't replace Parker. Respected NFL agent Tom Condon did. Though certainly Jay-Z himself will naturally have Dez' ear whenever he wants it, Jay-Z's team will handle marketing-level stuff, not negotiate the actual contract.
Two: Jerry was indeed unhappy with the agent switch. But because he "likes'' Parker but "dislikes'' Condon? No. Because the deal was close ... and changing agents in mid-stream sent the "close deal'' off into the ditch.
That doesn't mean Dez doesn't have some distrust here now. And his distrust, in general, is justified. Who are his friends? Who is in his corner? Who is on his side? Once Stephen A. Smith starts using the fact that he, like you, is African-American and that he, therefore, is an appropriate "voice'' for you ... the situation has jumped the shark and your trust in humankind ought to be shaken.
Yeah. Good luck with that.
One of the ways to establish libel/slander/defamation is "malicious intent.'' And as wrongheaded as so many in the media have been -- right up to the very top of the journalistic food chain -- it would be very difficult to prove that anyone lied on purpose with the intent of damaging Bryant.
Did the media go off half-cocked? Absolutely? Is it maddening to hear guys who yesterday were "investigative reporters'' today claim "Naw, I'm not really a reporter''? Yes. Does it seem dishonest to claim, "I knew about this months ago'' and then ignore or even discredit those who this week have actually presented concrete news about the case? Yes. Is there "malice'' is trudging out old videos of Dez' mom or is there "malice'' in insisting that Dez is still guilty of something or it there "malice'' in letting one's stubborn nature block what is journalistically, ethically and morally fair?
This is going to get lost in this thundersleet of Dez notes here and elsewhere, but here goes:
The real concerns about providing Dez with a "Cowboys For Life'' contract that is larger than Tyron Smith's isn't about behavior (though as with Tyron or Tony Romo or anyone else, the Cowboys want to make certain their large investment stays on the straight-and-narrow). As Dez works to provide for his family -- and to, as he recently laughingly told me, "act right'' so his three children don't someday ask him, "Daddy, why were you such a knucklehead?'' -- the Cowboys contemplate the issues of age and years.
I'm told this morning that the Dallas Cowboys already knew about this incident. So did law-enforcement officials.
Here you go, as presented by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
All the breathless reports of "gunplay'' and "low-ball offers'' and "secret sources'' and "I've seen the video tape''? The holes in those stories are growing larger. The thoughts that remain? a screenshot of a surveillance video that no longer exists and Dez' continued need for counseling as to how to manage his volatility.
Will the NFL commissioner's office have something to say about this? How? Why? To re-review a July 2011 incident it already knew about? We've covered the "What Ifs'' if there is truly a serious problem here and we've covered the "Five Steps of Muck'' that have always been a bit wobbly when it comes to this Unicorn of a story.
What the Cowboys and Bryant are probably now happy to get to is the football business of Bryant's "Cowboys For Life'' deal and likely his franchise-tagging by March 2, too.
To say Dez Bryant is "innocent'' would not be completely accurate. There have been incidents that he's trying to put in his past, as he's stated very clearly. But to say Dez Bryant is "guilty'' of a career-ending crime?
If the Lancaster Walmart incident is the evidence, that would not be completely accurate, either. And now we move to Monday. ... and beyond.
* Our Cowboys-centric "Monday Mock Draft'' is here.
* How close were Dez and the Cowboys on an October deal? The scoop.
*If you're a Cowboys draftnik, please read "The Cowboys' Six Tells and Tendencies in the Draft.'' ...
*Cowboys RFAs? We've got the scoop on Cole Beasley's coming deal.
*In an exclusive with Stephen Jones, CowboysHQ.com learns the team's "shop-and-drop'' plans with DeMarco Murray.
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