Why the Wait with Dez?

Within the last 48 hours, the Dallas Cowboys began negotiations with their first-round draft pick, wide receiver Dez Bryant, on a contract.

Question is: what took so long?

The easy way to solve this would be to give Bryant a slight bump over the player drafted in his spot a year earlier. In this case, that's Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who agreed to a five-year contract with the Falcons last year worth an estimated $10.35 million. So depending on whose inflation rate is used, surely a contract could be hammered out over lunch that would pay Bryant $11-11.5 million over five years, and he could head to San Antonio with his teammates for the start of training camp this Friday, right?

It's a little more complicated than that. Some factors worth considering:

• No first-round pick has signed a contract yet, and no agent wants to be the first to allow his client to sign, thereby setting the market for everyone else. That "let's see what everyone else gets" approach apparently is being skewed by the St. Louis Rams, who reportedly are working on a deal with overall No. 1 pick Sam Bradford on a deal with the largest guarantee in the history of the NFL, so everyone wants to see what Bradford makes before the slotting dance begins.

• Defensive tackles like Jerry play a premium position, but glamour positions like wide receiver generally get paid on a slightly higher scale (unless your name is Albert Haynesworth, of course), so Bryant's increase over Jerry's contract might be a little more than normal … but not enough to merit a holdout.

• Bryant's suspension last year from the Oklahoma State team hurt his draft stock. He was chosen 24th overall by the Cowboys, but many viewed him as a top-10 talent in this year's draft. If that's the stance his agent, Eugene Parker takes, then he would be asking the Cowboys for a bump over last year's corresponding pick. If so, Parker could ask for a contract similar to that received by the No. 10 pick in the 2009 draft, San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who held out before signing a six-year deal worth $32-40 million (depending on incentives reached). The guarantee alone in Crabtree's deal — $17 million — is about 70 percent more than Jerry's entire contract with the Falcons, so if that's the kind of deal Parker wants, there could be some friction there.

• The final reason for the holdup could be the league's uncertain labor future. There are many who think the NFL will endure another work stoppage in 2011, and because many contracts spread out guaranteed money through incentives — some of which are as easy to fulfill as being on the roster on a certain date — teams are working on new ways to spread the guaranteed money. The players and owners certainly want to avoid a work stoppage, but if they don't prepare for the possibility of an interruption, they're not doing their jobs, so they're looking at new ways to structure deals that will please both sides of the negotiations.

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