Cowboys Dez, Mating Dance, Dominos + Minicamp
Dez Bryant doesn’t have many cards to play in this effort to bust from the $12.823 million franchise tag he is presently locked into. So Dez put one down on the table on Friday, telling me he is "serious'' about sitting out 2015 regular-season games in protest should he not receive a “Cowboys-For-Life’’ contract.
How does Dallas Cowboys COO Stephen Jones counter? With a card of his own, telling SiriusXM radio that there’s a “wide gap’’ between the two sides as they effort to forge a long-term deal for the star receiver.
And then agent Tom Condon joined the Tuesday fray, also on Sirius, insisting that there have been no negotiations between the two sides.
But wait: if there have been no negotiations, how can anyone know that there’s a “wide gap’’?
Answer: This is all posturing, the “mating dance’’ of contract talks, if you will. And how can you tell when negotiators are posturing? When their lips are moving.
The ball was advanced again, a bit, on Wednesday, as the Cowboys practiced in a minicamp at AT&T Stadium. As his teammates worked, Dez tweeted, "Everybody voicing opinions..13 mil is cool but Where is my security? I'll wait ...5 years without complaining..So how am I selfish?''
Moments later, team owner Jerry Jones made himself to the media and said he is "sympathetic'' to Dez' position, adding, "I would like nothing more than to have long-term security with Dez."
Both sides are well-aware that they deadline for a long-term deal is July 15, and that if Dez truly sits out after that he’ll be forfeiting about $755,000 per game on principle, and that if Dallas doesn’t get this done, they’ll lose (if not actually games) the faith and trust they’ve spend years building with Bryant.
Some of Stephen’s comments continue to point to the positive.
"At the end of the day it's a business, and when the time comes and there's something that we can do that makes sense for both sides, I know that'll happen,’’ he said.
And maybe that doesn’t happen until other receiver dominoes fall. Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas are, like Dez, all looking for new deals. Condon’s CAA agency is involved in two of those four deals. Condon holds not only some of the purse strings here, but also some of the puppet strings. And if you want a glimpse into the complications here, you must read KD Drummond's take on Dez' dealings, here.
"This is an environment right now with a receiver market that's not exactly easy to get your hands around,’’ Stephen said. "It's been well-documented that both Fitzgerald and Megatron (the two monster contracts Dez’ side would like to use as foundations) both got their deals based on their rookie contracts because they were high draft picks and the franchise tag dictated that. But since then all receivers, the top ones, have pretty much been paid in the $11.5-12.5 million range, and there's a big disparity there."
That is a revelation as it seems to say Dallas wishes to pay Dez $12.5 million a year. But of course, “annual salary’’ is just a fraction of what must be settled on. What about years? What about escapability? What about fully guaranteed money? What about “virtually guaranteed’’ money?
"I don't think anyone quite knows what that market is, and that makes it difficult," Jones said. "Until that happens (with Dez, Jones, Green or Thomas), it's what teams think versus what players and their representatives think. There's a wide gap right now.”
When does the "wide gap’’ figure to start closing? When both sides are too busy doing their negotiating with each other to conduct negotiations through the media … which figures to be right before July 15.
Said Jerry: "I have no doubt that he'll be leading the way (in the 2015 season-opener) against the Giants."
*J.J. Wilcox is sitting out this week's Cowboys minicamp while trying to correct chronic plantar fascia in his right foot.
The starting safety this week underwent a platelet-rich plasma procedure that will keep him from working out until next week. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says Wilcox is expected be ready for training camp.
Wilcox, 24, started every game alongside Barry Church at safety for the Cowboys last season, the third-year pro recording 89 tackles with five pass breakups and three interceptions in the regular season.
*Brandon Carr will go on as a Cowboy. But looking for ways to make that work in a cap-friendly way will go on as well.
“We are continuing to look for ways that we can do something that’s good for both of us,” Jones said. “Good for both of us (meaning for) the Cowboys relative to relief as to our cap management and good for him that would maybe be some pluses for him on his contract. ... there are ways that we can improve our lot that aren’t unrealistic."
Carr is presently scheduled to make $8 million in salary with a $12.7-mil hit against the cap. The Cowboys could force an or-else restructure (apparently an option Jones has dismissed) or extend Carr's deal in a way that softens his cap hit this year.
All of this is part of a "vision of sugar-plums," Jones said, of Carr joining Orlando Scandrick, rehabbing Mo Claiborne and first-round rookie Byron Jones in being part of a secondary he predicts will "surprise."has six interceptions, 33 pass breakups and two touchdowns in three seasons in Dallas.
“I think that Carr is capable,” Jones said. “I’m not as negative on Carr’s season last year as some can be. ... We've got a good chance to be excellent in our secondary. I expect that."
*Tony Romo is ranked No. 34 on this year's NFL Network top 100 NFL players list. That puts him eighth among QBs. What do I think of such lists? I think we should think less about such lists.
*Jones said he expects camp readiness for starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain (knee), starting right tackle Doug Free (foot) and cornerback Mo Claiborne (knee). He says Mo is prepped to "surprise'' people. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Free did sprints along the sideline. He's coming along. Ro? He did some walkthrough drills without a helmet on Wednesday. It's fair to say he looks ... rusty.
*Sean Lee accelerated to some 11-on-11 work on Wednesday. I asked coach Jason Garrett about the plan for him at camp. Do you keep the governor on? Or when it's time to go, is Lee full-speed ahead? Garrett says the latter ... though Lee will be monitored through those full speeds.
*Garrett also says the plan with Greg Hardy is not influenced by the coming ruling on his suspension appeal. Hardy is a first-teamer and will practice and play that way this summer.
*The Cowboys keep saying things like they are "very comfortable'' with their running back situation. (Darren McFadden did have a second straight good day on Wednesday.) And then I keep bringing you stories regarding their openness to ideas like ex-Titans runner Shonn Greene.
*The Cowboys experienced a reminder of why teams don’t throw away quality depth just because they have quality depth with the news that rookie offensive tackle Chaz Green underwent hip surgery on Wednesday morning. He’ll now likely be limited for the start of training camp in Oxnard, a reminder of the wisdom of Dallas having built depth in its O-line.
“Chaz Green,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, "had some hip surgery today. We thought we could practice through that, but then when we looked at it, rather than take a chance on it being still there and lingering or exacerbating in training camp, we thought we’d go ahead and get it.”
The injury has hampered Green, a third-round pick who was plagued by injuries during his college career at Florida, throughout the spring. He's a strong candidate to win the swing tackle job, eventually. But for now, because starter Doug Free is rehabbing from foot surgery, Darrion Weems is getting first-team snaps at right tackle. Another rookie offensive lineman, La'el Collins, has a chance to be a standout but is focusing on playing guard, where he is behind Ron Leary at left guard. And seventh-round rookie O-lineman Laurence Gibson is sidelined with a broken finger.
The Cowboys may have the best offensive line in football. Time will tell on that. But they might need to have the best O-line depth in football, too.
"I don’t know that we've had this good of talent at any time over the last five or six or seven years." - Jerry Jones.
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