Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant wisely has resisted signing a long-term contract that ties him to the team but doesn’t tie to the team to him because the offers the team has made don’t contain significant guaranteed money. And now that it appears inevitable the Cowboys will use the franchise tag on Bryant, owner Jerry Jones has begun making the case to the media and the fans that Dez should be thrilled by the gesture.
“I’ve never seen anybody just pout to the extent that they wouldn’t do it over this kind of money,” Jones recently said, as MDS noted earlier today. “That usually is not realistic. It’s just too much money.”
It’s a lot of money, but it’s far less fully guaranteed money than Bryant believes he’s worth. And it’s not the kind of life-changing payday Bryant believes he’s earned. For whatever reason, the Cowboys aren’t willing to make Bryant an offer that would pay him $30 million or more fully guaranteed at signing.
So if the Cowboys want to play tag with Bryant, he should play tag with them. Here’s how.
First, he shouldn’t sign the tender right away, giving other teams a chance to decide whether to sign him to an offer sheet that, if not matched by the Cowboys, would send a pair of first-round picks to Dallas and get Bryant a new home. Some think only a franchise quarterback would justify the sacrifice of two first-round picks. Considering, however, that the Bills gave up the ninth pick in 2014, a first-round pick in 2015, and a fourth-round pick in 2015 to get unproven rookie Sammy Watkins, maybe there’s a G.M. out there sufficiently desperate to make a move for Dez.
Second, if no offer sheet comes in March or April, Dez should sign the tender in early May. And then he should boycott all voluntary offseason workouts. He should also consider staying away from the mandatory minicamp, since the fine would be a small piece of the $13 million or more he’ll earn under the franchise tag.
Third, he should buy a disability policy protecting him against serious injury in 2015.
Four, he should show up for training camp, have a big season, and prepare to do it all over again in 2016. If the Cowboys want to tag him again, he’ll be eligible for a 20-percent raise. If the franchise tender for receivers ends up at $13 million, he’d be entitled to $15.6 million with second application of the tag.
Fifth, he should repeat steps one through four. At that point, the Cowboys surely won’t use the tag for a third time, since the rules require a 44-percent raise. At $13 million this year and $15.6 million in 2016, that would trigger a $22.464 million salary in 2017.
So if the Cowboys don’t want to fully guarantee at least $28.6 million (the sum of the 2015 and 2016 franchise tags) on a long-term deal, Bryant should tell the Cowboys, “Fine. Give me the tag. I won’t pout now. But you may be pouting later.”