Cowboys + Dez: 10 Issues With The Rumor
First, the ESPN story, which has Dez Bryant "contemplating not reporting to the Dallas Cowboys for the regular-season opener unless he is signed to a long-term contract by July 15, according to sources familiar with the receiver's negotiation strategy.''
At initial blush, it sounds like an ominous thing; after five NFL seasons, Bryant is as good as it gets at the receiver position, a foundation piece emotionally and talent-wise, and in 2014, he caught 88 passes for 1,350 yards and 16 touchdowns for a division-winning playoff team. No Dez! Oh no!
UPDATE: At 5:32 p.m. DFW time I have confirmation that this is indeed Dez Bryant's position. More to come ...
But ... 10 Issues With The Dez Rumor:
Bryant and the Joneses have to agree what we've long called a "Cowboys-For-Life'' deal by the July 15 deadline, or he will to play the season on the franchise tender offer of $12.823 million. That is understood. But ESPN adds to that with these five words: "Or not play at all.''
"Or not play at all''? Meaning Bryant is prepared to forfeit a guaranteed $12,823,000 for the 2015 season over principle? And, using the same "principle'' logic,'' would then also decline the team's invitation to play under the tag again in 2016, thus forfeiting another $13 mil guaranteed? This essentially means Dez (or his representatives) told Chris Mortensen that he's prepared to walk away from football rather than accept about $28 million guaranteed.
That's illogical. And virtually unprecedented. It really doesn't represent a threat at all. Though Mort has this angle right, I'm told.
Dez, according to the story, is "contemplating not reporting to the Cowboys for the regular-season opener unless he is signed to a long-term contract by July 15.''
This demonstrates a lack of understanding ... by someone ... in a number of areas.
A powerful threat would be to truly suggest the player would walk away from football. ... except the threat is too unprecedented to be anything but empty. So ... just miss Week 1? Which implies that Dez, having "proven'' some stupidly abstract point, would cave and show up for Week 2, tail tucked between his legs?
How does that win Bryant anything? The deadline to do a deal -- not just the Cowboys' deadline, but Dez', too -- is July 15. There can be no negotiations in September. So actions in September are empty ones. They don't move the meter.
What if Dez misses the opener? And Dallas loses. What is gained? Nothing.
What is lost? Maybe a shot at Bryant getting a playoff berth. Maybe the respect of teammates who won't quite be able to figure out the point. And definitely $755,000, Dez' weekly paycheck under the tag ... about half his previous income under his rookie contract,
What Dez (and the Cowboys) need to do regarding this contract needs to be done in the next month. Doing something about it in September won't do anything at all.
ESPN writes, "a source cited the option of 'pulling an Emmitt Smith,' referring to the Cowboys Hall of Fame running back who missed the first two games of the 1993 season. In that situation, the team gave in when it began the season with two losses and Smith was signed to a new deal favorable to his side of negotiations. The Cowboys overcame that 0-2 start to win their second straight Super Bowl.''
There is virtually no parallel between what Emmitt did and what this story suggests Dez will do, simply because in 1993, with every loss, Jerry Jones was pressured to give Emmitt more money. The advent and application of the "franchise tag'' kills that possibility.
Emmitt (who told me at the beginning of that 1993 process that he wanted "Quarterback Money,'' a seemingly outrageous desire at that spring moment) has leverage because maybe the defending Super Bowl champs would lose again in Week 3 .. and again in Week 4 ... and Jerry would be left holding the losing bag.
I tend to think anyone who thinks Dez' deal is like Emmitt's deal isn't old enough to have been around in 1993 ... and maybe isn't smart enough to be in charge of anybody's negotiations in 2015.
Mort is a terrific reporter but a story of this magnitude best have all its ducks in a row. This one does not, as it includes the line, "the team reportedly has not made a new proposal since prior to the 2014 season.'' As CowboysHQ.com reported regarding late October, there was not only an offer on the table but there was even a tentative agreement ... one that blew up and resulted in Dez dumping agent Eugene Parker in favor of Tom Condon (and Roc Nation) and also involved Dez getting rid of some of his other "personal management'' people.
We wrote then, and contend now, that while it's entirely possible Bryant ends up playing under the terms of the tag, being that close in October means they can, conceivably, be that close again as we inch toward July 15.
But .. the essence of Mort's story here remains true.
ESPN writes that Dez appeared "at one OTA session.'' In fact, Bryant told me of his plans to appear at two of the three OTA series, and that's an important fact because it speaks to the lack of likelihood that he would truly skip football in the summer and football in the fall (while being paid $13 million) when his devotion to the cause didn't even allow him to skip the Underwear Olympics in the spring.
Could Condon or Roc Nation push him to do so? In theory. Though Dez has been very intend on making it clear to me who calls the shots in the "Dez Camp'' now. And that person's name is "Dez.''
"I'm the one making the decisions on who to trust and who to be surrounded by,’’ Bryant recently told me. “I’ve surrounded myself with people who I think deserve to be trusted.''
It's always fun to play this guessing game. But it's always best to do this another way: If Dez said this, or if Condon said this, or if a Roc Nation higher-up said this, on-the-record would've been not only more responsible, but also more powerful. And my final judgment on the rumor/strategy won't fully form until I hear from one of those parties personally or in on-the-record form.
And I've just heard from Dez himself. Story to come ...
Said Bryant's agent Tom Condon in the ESPN story: "Our goal is still to get something done on a long-term basis by the deadline."
That's the most logical thing in the whole piece, but it's sort of buried. We've got COO Stephen Jones telling us about this final month using works like "push'' and "progress.'' I've got Dez himself telling me, "Listen, "I’m a Cowboy. It’s Cowboys forever. That's it." We know that just as in Denver, where Peyton Manning is going to eventually talk to his bosses about getting Thomas into the fold, Tony Romo has the sway here to eventually visit with Jerry on just how much Dallas can budge to get Dez to a place where he's getting, say, $38 mil guaranteed on a seven-year, $1000-mil deal. (Oh, and guess who reps Romo? The same Mr. Condon. So Tony has sway both ways.)
This isn't the case of an embittered employer against a disgruntled employer. (Otherwise, why is Dez calling La'el Collins to vouch for Jerry Jones "having our backs''?) But "contemplating not reporting for the regular-season opener'' damn sure makes it sound that way.
Still ... Dez can have a "lack of animosity'' and still threaten to take his ball and go home, right? Right.
Mort asks whether Bryant has the "resolve'' to stick with this plan. The writer surely didn't mean it this way, but this almost comes across as a "when-did-you-stop-kicking-your-dog?'' assertion. Are we questioning Dez' "resolve''? Are we daring him to adhere to a "plan''? Are we asking him to be committed to a concept we're not even certain he's aware of?
I would think Dez Bryant's "resolve'' to a cause would be tremendously strong. Which is why he would be careful in choosing those causes. And we should be careful in assigning them to him. I don't think Mort meant this the way it came across.
You try to keep your eye on the ball here but there are so many distractions. I can just say four words to the CHQ reader and you know exactly what I mean: "Dez Wal-Mart Unicorn Video.'' (read all about it here.)
In the end, whether this is a viable strategy or bad strategy, it remains, ultimately, just another red herring, just another straw man, I think. I'd argue that it gets in the way of the football business of figuring out whether Dez Bryant plays for the Cowboys in 2015 for $12.823 million or whether he plays for similarly big money in Dallas over a longer committed course of time. ... but the person arguing in the other direction is Dez himself. He's in charge.
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