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Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Final Exam: Patience on a Dez Bryant deal

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys do not need to be in a rush to sign Dez Bryant to a long-term deal.

It has nothing to do with what Bryant has done on the field. He has grown a ton the last two years. It has nothing to do with a balky back either. It has not caused him to miss a game. It has nothing to do with what he has done off the field either. Bryant’s maturity away from the game has been noted by many.

Dez Bryant
The Cowboys should wait until they know how much cap space they'll have before signing Dez Bryant to a new deal.
I’m all for paying Bryant whatever the going rate will be for receivers with his statistics and his age. He has had some hiccups along the way but he falls into coach Jason Garrett’s “right kind of guy” category. He needs to direct that passion in different ways at time, but that’s something that can be coached. You can’t coach “passion” into a guy.

But the Cowboys don’t need to rush a deal with Bryant because time is on their side. This is different than Tony Romo getting to the final year of his deal because, well, quarterbacks are different than wide receivers.

Sorry, it’s just true.

Bryant is set to make a $1.78 million base salary in 2014 with a cap figure of $3.898 million. That’s a relative bargain for a guy with back-to-back 90-catch seasons. Bryant is by far the most dangerous threat the Cowboys have on offense. Defenses know where he will be on every play and sometimes it doesn’t matter.

He can make plays that only a few in the league can make. He has become a better overall receiver because he has done the little things more consistently. He turns 26 in November, so age is not an issue with a new contract.

The Cowboys have cap issues in 2014. They need to do a lot of trimming. A new deal for Bryant would not lower his cap number sufficiently enough to make a difference. The structure of his deal would almost assuredly mean a gigantic cap number in 2015.

The cap is expected to go up in 2016, so the Cowboys should wait as long as they can so they can clean up their cap over the next two years and have a better idea of the room they will have in the future. They have only six players signed through 2015 with big-money deals: Romo, Sean Lee, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick.

Tyron Smith is signed through 2014 but the Cowboys hold an option year on his deal for 2015.

For those fearful of Bryant’s possible departure or the price going up astronomically with a Calvin Johnson-like season in 2014, the Cowboys can always use the franchise tag on him and keep him through 2017 if they use it every year. They used it on back to back years on linebacker Anthony Spencer, paying him close to $20 million in 2012-13.

It is a last-resort type move but it remains a viable option.

Ultimately the Cowboys will reward Bryant, but it should be on their time.