There hasn’t been a gold rush to sign Dez Bryant, who isn’t the receiver he was a few years ago but is still the best free agent left on the market.
There are reasons Bryant hasn’t been signed yet — the Dallas Cowboys did Bryant (and themselves) no favors by waiting so long to cut him, when teams have filled most of their receiver needs and are focused on the draft — but a contract issue seems to be a stumbling block too.
Most players want long-term deals. That’s why everyone hates the franchise tag. But in Bryant’s case, he doesn’t want anything long term, veteran NFL reporter Ed Werder said.
Werder reported Bryant turned down a multi-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens because he wants a “big” one-year deal and then become a free agent again in 2019. Though the timing of Bryant turning down the Ravens’ offer is uncertain, reports said Baltimore would not be signing Bryant after they landed restricted free agent Willie Snead this week. But, as we know, things can change in the NFL.
The issue for teams at this point in the year is salary-cap space. When teams give out a multi-year deal, they can have a smaller cap hit in the early years as they spread out a signing bonus over the length of the contract. Whatever “big” means for Bryant, per Werder, if it’s a one-year deal it would all go on a team’s 2018 cap. That’s not ideal in late April, when most of the free-agent shopping has been done. Again, the Cowboys did Bryant no favors by procrastinating so long on cutting him.
It’s an interesting strategy for Bryant too. He was not the same receiver last season he was in his Pro Bowl years, and he’ll turn 30 in November. There’s a chance Bryant could have a resurgent season with his new team and be the top receiver in free agency next year. There’s also a chance he could sign a one-year deal, struggle again, and find the market for him has dried up. He’s obviously willing to take that gamble.
Bryant’s free agency will presumably go on the back burner as the NFL has its draft extravaganza this week. Then, when teams come out of the draft and see they still have a hole at receiver, Bryant could become a consideration. They’ll also know that when they chase Bryant, he’s not looking for a long-term commitment.
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