Cowboys release Dez Bryant after eight seasons, WR says 'it's personal'
The former first-round pick will be elsewhere in 2018
Dez Bryant's eight-year career with the Cowboys came to an end on Friday when the team released the wide receiver. Bryant, who hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2014, met Friday with owner and general manager Jerry Jones, three days before the team opens offseason workouts.
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Jones issued this statement:
"As an organization we hold Dez Bryant in the highest regard, and we are grateful for his passion, spirit and contributions to this team for the past eight years. He will always be a valued member of our family. Dez and I share a personal and professional relationship that is very strong, and he is one of just a handful of players with whom I have become that close to over the past 30 years.
"This was not an easy decision. It was made based upon doing what we believe is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We arrived at this crossroad collectively with input from several voices within the organization. Ultimately we determined it was time to go in a new direction."
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, Bryant was not offered a pay cut, will not be designated a post-Jun1 cut, and the team will save $8 million against the salary cap this season.
Archer also reports that, in addition to the falling production, Bryant was doomed by his fiery personality.
"The other thing that we all see and it is certainly visible to anyone who watches our games, watches our sideline, is Dez is certainly a fiery guy who plays with a lot of emotion both on and off the field," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said during an appearance the team's podcast. "Sometimes that can be a distraction. It can be a distraction for Dez, it can be a distraction for other teammates. And we just have to really get our hands around when you put all the full body of work together where that's headed."
Regularly mentioned as one of the league's best wide receivers for most of his career, Bryant blamed injuries and a predictable offensive game plan for his pedestrian 2017 season (69 catches, 838 yards, six touchdowns). In January, days after the Cowboys finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, Jones made it clear that he expected more from Bryant.
"Well, I think Dez is right. We need more from Dez. We need bigger plays," Jones told CBS Sports Radio's 105.3 The Fan at the time. "That's obvious to everybody is we didn't get big plays. I don't know that you ever get enough of them, but we certainly didn't get the amount that we have to have to change our fate here. And, so, I agree with him. We need to have bigger plays.
"There's a lot into that, but we've got to get more from -- he's [a] top player on our team. He certainly expects to make big plays, the expectation for Dak to get him the ball is there. We've gotten used to it. Yeah, we need more from that area."
Jones wasn't wrong. Bryant was No. 31 in total value among all wideouts in 2016, according to Football Outsiders, and he played in just 13 games and had 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. In '17, Bryant fell to 72nd, just ahead of teammate Cole Beasley, who counted $4.5 million against the cap in 2017 compared to Bryant's $17 million cap number. Which brings us to Bryant's 2018 cap number -- $16.5 million -- which hasn't gone unnoticed in the Cowboys' front office, particularly in light of the dip in production.
Regarding any talk of a pay cut, Bryant never embraced the idea.
"I haven't heard no talks of [a pay cut]," Bryant said in December 2017, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. "But if it comes ... I don't know. Probably not. Hell no. I believe in me."
Bryant will have plenty of suitors should he hit free agency, but it's hard to imagine any team paying him as one of the league's top wideouts. Instead, Bryant, who is more possession receiver than deep threat, will be looking for a contract similar to the three-year, $21 million deal the Ravens gave Michael Crabtree last month.
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