He’s a phenomenal player. There’s no doubt about that. However, you simply can’t give $16 million per year to a guy who touches the ball on only a percentage of the plays. While Calvin Johnson is one of the only receivers in NFL comparable to Dez Bryant in terms of talent, he is not worth the a deal of this magnitude either.
Front office ownership tends to play it safe in these situations, as the Detroit Lions did with Calvin Johnson when he inked his $113-million deal. By play it safe, I mean side with the fans. It’s tough to have a guy such as Dez Bryant make play after play for your team and not keep him happy with a deal he wants. If his production declines, the first thing the fans will point at is his contract situation, blaming ownership.
While Bryant may be wanted in Dallas as the leading receiver, there are receivers in Dallas and on the free agent market that can play the position Bryant plays. With a discounted price comes discounted performance in the case of the potential Bryant exclusion, but ownership must ask itself: If it’s putting a $16-million-per-year deal on the line for Bryant, is he pulling his weight in production? Is this expensive of a player going to benefit us in our chances at a Super Bowl run?
I would say no, given the situation the Cowboys are left in following last season. Both Jason Witten and Tony Romo are a year older and DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing yards in 2014, is now with the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles. Murray’s absence and Dallas’ inability to draft or sign a back to of proximate caliber to replace him will likely leave an extra defensive back to cover Bryant in several situations. Additionally with the threat of the run diminished, game-breaking plays off play-action passes will be harder to come by in 2015 for Bryant.
While one might argue he led the league in receiving touchdowns in 2014, it can also be said that of players with 30 or more receptions, Bryant averaged outside the top 20 in yards per catch and only 10th in yards per game. He ranked only 12th in the league with 88 receptions. Another reason the defense of league leader in touchdowns doesn’t necessarily hold water is history. Look back to 2012 when James Jones led the NFL in touchdown receptions. Where is he now? On the free agent block.
To win a Super Bowl the Cowboys, like any other NFL team, must spend their money and cap space effectively, planning for the future along the way. It becomes difficult to keep budding players once you lock an established veteran such as Bryant in with a deal. Therefore, decisions have to be made on a price-reward basis. They need guys that will come through in the clutch and make big plays. Bryant knows how to make the highlight reel. There’s no doubt on that end, but he needs to consistently make plays in crucial situations. Throughout the regular season, 10 of Bryant’s 16 touchdowns came in games the Cowboys won by double digits. On top of that, he had only six catches and scored no touchdowns in Dallas’ two postseason games versus Detroit and at Green Bay. Terrance Williams, a guy that makes less than $1 million per year on the other hand, scored three touchdowns in the same two games.
I’m not saying Dez Bryant isn’t one of the best receivers in the game today, but when you pair his off-the-field issues with his football stats, you can see he shouldn’t be paid upwards of $16 million per year. If his stats showed he was head and shoulders above other receivers, my opinion might just change, but for now the risk doesn’t outweigh the reward.
This article is a part of our ongoing “Opposites Attack” series where we aim to play devil’s advocate on hot topics in the sports and entertainment world while providing a fresh perspective of these subjects.
Featured Image: The Dallas Morning News