Dez Bryant ... welcome to free agency. On Friday, after eight seasons, 531 catches (third in franchise history), 7,459 receiving yards (fifth), and 73 touchdown catches (first). Now, while the Cowboys move forward with a no-name receiving crew, Bryant is a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.
Bryant, 29, shouldn't expect to get paid like a superstar receiver considering he hasn't eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark since 2014, but he'll be wanted -- namely because he does have multiple superstar-caliber seasons on his resume and because he is suddenly the best available receiver on the open market after most of free agency came and went. He certainly won't lack motivation to prove the Cowboys wrong by regaining his prior form.
If I didn’t have my edge I got it now... I’m sorry they got to feel me it’s personal... it’s very personal— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) April 13, 2018
With that in mind, it's time to figure out where Bryant might be playing in 2018 and beyond. By the sound of it, Bryant is expecting to land with an NFC East team, which would give him a chance to go up against the Cowboys twice per season.
Dez walked out saying I'll see guys twice this year, I'm told. So that's that.— Mickey Spagnola (@Spags52) April 13, 2018
But as CBS Sports' Amy Trask -- the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders -- pointed out on Twitter, Bryant would be wise to check out other possible destinations like, say, California where four NFL teams happen to be stationed. After all, nothing comes close to the golden coast.
I dunno where Dez will end up - he hinted (strongly) at the NFC East - but in my experience his reps will (or should) look hard at California teams (as older veterans often do) b/c there are tremendous financial benefits to them if they finish their careers in California.— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) April 13, 2018
There are a ton of possibilities. Half of the league -- if not more -- could be in play for Bryant's services. So, let's rank some landing spots that make sense.
The process begins with the Green Bay Packers.
14. Green Bay Packers
After cutting Jordy Nelson, the Packers have a clear need for another receiver. That's why they're on this list. But it still seems like an unlikely destination for Bryant given the Packers usually aren't the kind of team that likes signing older players on the downslope of their careers. Obviously, there have been some exceptions to this rule -- Julius Peppers and Jimmy Graham to name two recent examples -- but it'd be kinda weird if the Packers cut one older receiver for another aging receiver, right?
Then again, if Bryant is looking for the perfect quarterback to help him resurrect his career, he's probably keeping an eye on Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
Bryant indicated that he wants to stay in the NFC East, so naturally, the Eagles have to appear on this list. Though they have Alshon Jeffery locked in as their WR1, and let tight end Trey Burton leave in free agency, which means Bryant could find a role in the offense.
"Look, Carson Wentz, one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. The Super Bowl champs are in that division. They traded Torrey Smith. They lost a young tight end in free agency. So, I would imagine he's thinking, boy Philadelphia, go there, win a Super Bowl, be on the other side of this rivalry, and try to stick it to the Cowboys."
La Canfora added that Bryant is unlikely to get the chance to simply pick and choose who he wants to play for next, so nobody should assume this will happen just because Bryant might wants it to happen. According to Spotrac, the Eagles rank last in available cap space.
12. New York Giants
Since Bryant talked about wanting to stay in the NFC East, I'm required to list all three of the NFC East teams not named the Cowboys. That brings us to the Giants.
The case for signing Bryant goes likes this: The Giants can cut an aging declining receiver in Brandon Marshall and replace him with a slightly better declining receiver in Bryant. With Bryant on the roster, the Giants' receiving corps of Odell Beckham (assuming he doesn't hold out), Sterling Shepard, and Bryant would be a three-headed monster that would be scary on paper. And if Beckham does hold out, Bryant would be a nice insurance policy in the short term.
The case against signing Bryant goes like this: The Giants arein the near future, so overpaying for a past-his-prime receiver like Bryant probably isn't financially prudent. Furthermore, the Giants are coming off a 3-13 season, so they're not exactly competing for a championship right now, which makes the acquisition of Bryant somewhat pointless.
11. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are in a weird spot. Almost everyone has written them off, but it's worth noting that they overcame season-ending injuries to both David Johnson and Carson Palmer by finishing with an 8-8 record a year ago. Obviously, they have some major rebuilding to do after watching Palmer and Bruce Arians retire, but they're still better than most give them credit for. They also just lost John Brown in free agency while Larry Fitzgerald contemplates free agency every offseason.
That's why they could be in play for Bryant.
10. Carolina Panthers
There's no doubt that the Panthers need help at receiver. They traded Kelvin Benjamin, and Devin Funchess has not shown the ability to be a WR1, but the Panthers shouldn't be considered a frontrunner in the Bryant sweepstakes because of their financial situation. Per Spotrac, the Panthers are 30th in available cap space heading into 2018.
Despite their need for a receiver, adding an unproductive one who'll turn 30 during the upcoming season probably isn't the best use of their limited money.
9. Buffalo Bills
Here's a fit that makes a ton of sense, even if it isn't exactly a sexy destination for Bryant. The Bills desperately need help at receiver and they're ranked 11th in available cap space. Nine years after signing Terrell Owens, would the Bills pull the trigger on another former Cowboys receiver? If they do, Bryant would join a receiving corps that is spearheaded by Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones. As I said, the Bills need help at receiver.
Would Bryant want to go to Buffalo to play for a team without a proven quarterback? That part seems doubtful.
8. Houston Texans
Tyrann Mathieu,, wants it to happen.
The Texans obviously already have a star receiver on their roster in DeAndre Hopkins and a legitimate home-run threat in Will Fuller, so adding Bryant would be a luxury. But it's a luxury they'd be able to afford. According to Spotrac, they have $32,154,056 in available cap space, which ranks sixth.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are never going to be a pass-happy team so long as Blake Bortles is under center, but he does need someone to throw the ball to. After losing both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in free agency, receiver is an area of need in Jacksonville. As it stands, Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief would be leading their receiving group. Bryant would need to be OK with catching passes from Bortles, but he'd probably like the idea of going to a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
From the Jaguars' perspective, they might see Bryant as the piece that'll push them over the top. They rank in the middle of pack in cap space.
And hey, Jalen Ramsey wants it to happen.
6. New England Patriots
This just seems like a move the Patriots would make, right? They've taken chances on old past-their-prime receivers in the past -- Rams (who aren't on this list because of their cap situation). In other words, the Patriots could use another receiver on their roster.-- and they just got gutted in free agency, Then, they to the
"You've got teams like New England, this is the kind of thing they do: A guy late in his career, on the cheap,"
The only question is, would Bryant be willing to take less money for the opportunity to catch passes from Tom Brady and win a Super Bowl?
5. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts might not have a starting quarterback who can throw an actual football, but what they do have is tons of cap space. According to Spotrac, they have $61,387,376 available. Only the Browns have more.
You know what else the Colts don't have (besides a starting quarterback who can throw an actual football)? Good receivers to pair with T.Y. Hilton. Funnily enough, if you go look at the Colts' depth chart at OurLads.com -- the most-reliable website for unofficial depth charts -- you'll see that they have a spot open, almost like they're waiting to pencil in Bryant's name.
His willingness to sign with them might come down to Andrew Luck's health. I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but . Meanwhile, the Colts might decide that they don't want to overpay for an aging player when they're in the middle of a rebuild.
4. Seattle Seahawks
"I'd look at Seattle, as well,". "They've lost Jimmy Graham, (Paul) Richardson, they've had an exodus of assets to an offense that wasn't overloaded with skill players in the first place."
The Seahawks are ranked 18th in available cap space. So, it wouldn't be impossible.
3. Washington Redskins
Bryant said he wants to stay in the NFC East. Out of the three NFC East teams, the Redskins make the most sense. Though they have a crowded receiver room with Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Paul Richardson, none of those players should be viewed as WR1s or proven commodities. Adding another body to the room -- Bryant would be the most proven of the bunch -- would be beneficial to a team that is stuck in mediocrity.
Bryant and Josh Norman in one locker room would be too much entertainment, and just imagine how much fun the Redskins-Cowboys' matchups would be with Bryant in a Redskins jersey. The Redskins rank high on our list because it doesn't just make sense from a football perspective, it also makes the most sense from an entertainment standpoint.
Unfortunately, according to Mike Jones of USA Today, the Redskins aren't interested in Bryant right now.
Lot of Skins fans asking me about Dez. I’m told he’s not on their radar right now.— Mike Jones (@ByMikeJones) April 13, 2018
2. Baltimore Ravens
A year ago, the Ravens' best two receivers were Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson. , the Ravens shouldn't consider their receiver room full. While there's a good chance the Ravens decide to use their first-round pick on a receiver, that doesn't mean they also can't pursue Bryant. For all of his struggles, he'd be one of the better receivers to play for the Ravens in recent seasons.
For as much crap as the Ravens get for being a boring mediocre team, they almost made the playoffs a year ago. That's why they might be OK with signing yet another aging receiver to fix their playmaker problem on the fly.
1. San Francisco 49ers
As much as I like the fit of Bryant in Baltimore, I love the fit of Bryant in San Francisco -- I mean, Santa Clara -- even more. The 49ers have a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who's just waiting to explode, $38,795,900 in cap space, and a dearth of quality receivers. Marquise Goodwin is a quality player, but he's not a star. Pierre Garcon is getting up there in age. Why not add Bryant to the mix? If there's one thing that Bryant might still be able to do, it's come down with red zone touchdowns. On that note, it's worth noting that Garoppolo struggled to finish in the red zone last season.
If the 49ers are serious about challenging for a playoff spot in 2018, they need to get better at the skill positions. Many thought they'd go out and get Allen Robinson in free agency, but that didn't happen. Bryant isn't nearly as good as Robinson at this stage in their careers, but he'd be a decent consolation prize for a team that has the money to pay him.