The Ravens are taking a measured approach with Dez Bryant's attempted comeback, team sources said, with no assurances that the former Pro Bowl receiver plays for them this season while he works on their practice squad.
Bryant, who turns 32 this week, has not played an NFL game since starting all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2017. He signed a one-year deal with the Saints midway through the 2018 season, but then tore his Achilles in his second practice with the team and spent 2019 rehabbing and working toward an eventual return to the NFL. The Ravens worked him out in August but did not sign him, but he was in better shape and showed more promise in last week's tryout with the team, earning a spot on the expanded practice squads in place this season due to Covid.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta, always aggressive on the trade front, is still pursuing help at receiver and/or tight end ahead of Tuesday's deadline, sources said, though with just $2.8M in cap space currently at his disposal. Bryant is seen as an insurance policy of sorts, and even if he does not make it to the field, his veteran presence is very welcome with Baltimore's receiving group very young (Willie Snead, who just turned 28, was the oldest receiver prior to Bryant's signing and no one on the roster has come close to Bryant's career achievements).
"We'll see where it goes," one team source said. "If he looks good, maybe he'll eventually play. That's really it."
Bryant was impressive in practice this week, playing the role of Steelers receiver Chase Claypool on the scout team and already serving as a mentor of sorts to Baltimore's receivers. At this stage of his career, he is not going to make plays downfield, but the Ravens lack a reliable third pass catcher beyond Hollywood Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, and Bryant has a bigger body type and physical style of play that the Ravens lack. Perhaps, in some red zone and third-down packages, he could make an impact, with a knack for getting to the first-down marker and getting in the end zone (73 career touchdown catches).
The earliest Bryant would likely even consider getting activated would be Thanksgiving, when the Ravens have a rematch with the Steelers, with Bryant's personal receiver coach, David Robinson, telling me the veteran would need at least two to three weeks to work into game shape at practice and get immersed in the playbook. The Ravens have Super Bowl ambitions and will take their time with Bryant, with 2020 draft pick Devin Duvernay in line for a bigger role coming out of their bye, and with James Proche, their final pick in 2020, also making a case for a bigger look in the offense while faring well as a returner on special teams.