Dez Bryant is a free agent this offseason. He wants to be a member of the Dallas Cowboys for the rest of his football life. The Cowboys say they want Dez Bryant to be a member of the Cowboys for the rest of Bryant's football life. However, Stephen Jones -- executive vice president/COO/director of player personnel and son of owner Jerry Jones -- recently let on that the team would likely use the franchise tag on Bryant, as discussions on a long-term deal have not yet proven fruitful.
That rubbed Dez the wrong way, and he made his displeasure known on Tuesday:
Obviously, there's been a lot of reaction to the tweet throughout the football world. Stephen Jones, for one, had this to say:
Well, he's not feeling the right vibes, then. We feel strongly about him. We worked hard to do a long-term deal with him, and we'll continue to work hard at it. If we don't get one, then [the franchise tag] just shows him how much we care about him [that] we don't want to expose him.
So, great. The Cowboys love Dez and want him to be in Dallas long-term. The franchise tag is just a way to make sure he sticks around while they work on a deal. Wonderful. Still, Dez is not feeling the love, and he's especially peeved that people are connecting his past to his contract discussions. Friday, he sent out another tweet that cryptically alluded to the contract situation as well as his past legal troubles, and any possible connection between them:
It is well-known that Bryant had a troubled upbringing. He was born to a 14-year-old mother who was arrested for selling crack cocaine when Dez was eight years old. He lived in eight different homes during high school alone. He has also had various legal issues since entering the league. In 2011, he was sued for over $800,000 stemming from a jewlery-related debt acquired while he was at Oklahoma State. There was a bizarre incident involving a shopping mall and sagging pants that same year. And in 2012, he was arrested on charges of domestic violence for striking his mother.
Since 2012, Bryant hasn't had any more such incidents, and he and others have attributed that turn to getting some of the bad influences he alluded to in his Friday tweet out of his life. Over that three-year period, Bryant has also become arguably the best wide receiver in football, and certainly one of the top five or so. He led the NFL with 16 receiving touchdowns in 2014 (despite playing on one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league) and his 56 receiving touchdowns over the first five seasons of his career rank third-best all time behind only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.
Now, he would like to be appropriately compensated for that production. Dallas has to navigate some tricky cap issues this offseason, as both Bryant and the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, are free agents, while Tony Romo is currently scheduled to have the largest cap hit in the league for 2015. The Cowboys also have various linebacker (Rolando McClain, Justin Durant, Bruce Carter) and offensive line (Doug Free, Jeremy Parnell) free agents to bring back into the fold and holes to fill in the secondary and the defensive line. It's a tough balancing act to make, and that's likely why Stephen Jones brought up the franchise tag. If they can't come to an agreeable long-term deal, it's the best and easiest way to guarantee Bryant appropriate compensation and keep him in Dallas. It also gives the sides a chance to negotiate a long-term deal and toss the tag aside, as the New Orleans Saints and Jimmy Graham did last year.
But it's understandable that Bryant is frustrated. He has produced at an elite level in Dallas, wants to be there, and the team says he's a foundational, cornerstone player for them, so a workable deal should be theoretically easy to make. But things don't always work out that way, and we're seeing that play out in front of our eyes, on social media. In the grand scheme of things, this could wind up being a footnote in a long career wearing a star on his helmet, but it could also be one of the first signs of friction in what has so far been a positive relationship.