- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has had a pair of one-on-one meetings with Dez Bryant to discuss the Pro Bowl receiver’s potential contract extension, but no deal is imminent.
The parties are working to get a deal done before the regular season begins -- as Bryant will cut off negotiations until next offseason -- but neither side is certain an agreement will be reached over the next week.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “Certainly I don’t mean to say anything is a given or easy, but I do want what’s in his best interest and I want him to be a long-term player for the Cowboys. He knows that. I’m proud of the progress he’s made and we’ll just see if we can make this work for everybody.”
Bryant, who is due to make $1.78 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, is encouraged by the individual attention he has received from Jones this week. They met to talk about a contract Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s extremely rare for Jones to personally meet with a player to discuss a deal without the presence of an agent in the room.
“We have had good visits,” Jones said. “It’s a little different to be talking directly, for me to be talking directly with the player. I know of two that I’ve spent a lot of time directly talking with in some pretty sensitive areas when you’re talking about money. We all understand what that means. One of them Michael Irvin. He asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later and Emmitt Smith, he asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later. Troy [Aikman] always had Leigh Steinberg there, but we kind of talked straight in there together.
“But Dez and I have been visiting for years, ever since he’s been a Cowboy regarding things, and so it is a fairly unique situation that we’ve talked as much as we’ve talked, made it pretty easy and maybe propitious to be able to talk to him about his contract. That’s why we were actually talking there.”
Bryant has made it clear that he believes he’s one of the NFL’s top five receivers and wants to be paid as such, meaning his annual salary would be in the neighborhood of $12 million.
The Cowboys opened negotiations with a significantly lower number, attempting to use DeSean Jackson's three-year, $24 million deal with the Washington Redskins as a starting point. However, Jones said he has no issue with Bryant’s insistence that he’s one of the league’s highest-paid receivers.
“I will say this, that all Hall of Famers and great players are as competitive with their business as they are on the field,” Jones said. “I understand that. I had hundreds of negotiations and I understand that it is a natural thing to get your back up a little bit when you’re talking about your money.
“...I’m saying that, I understand the competitiveness or the sensation you get when someone won’t agree with you over money. I understand that as well as anybody breathing.”
The Cowboys have the option of using the franchise tag on Bryant the next three offseasons if a long-term deal isn’t reached. But that’d be expensive, starting at more than $12 million next year, rising to 120 percent of that figure the following year and skyrocketing to the quarterback’s franchise-tag number in the third year.
Jones would much prefer to sign Bryant to an extension, perhaps as soon as before the regular season begins. However, Jones said he couldn’t measure how far apart the sides are in the talks.
“You can’t because it takes two to tango,” Jones said. “So you just don’t have any measure of how far you are away from the other person’s expectation or where they will arrive at. You know we’re having good visits, but why wouldn’t we? We do. We’ve had good visits when all of these guys we’re talking about, one of the reasons we have good visits is because we’ve had them in good times and bad times.”