Another talented player has become available as an unrestricted free agent, as the Dallas Cowboys released former All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant after eight seasons. Bryant’s production declined after his big contract extension in 2015, but he still has the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL since 2012 and is only 29 years old. And apparently, Bryant is determined to prove the Cowboys wrong for cutting him (while hinting he anticipates signing with another NFC East team):
Dez walked out saying I'll see guys twice this year, I'm told. So that's that.
— Mickey Spagnola (@Spags52) April 13, 2018
From Dallas’ perspective, he wasn’t worth $16.5 million when they are a team that doesn’t have a ton of cap space; but this unsentimental decision shows how things have changed in the Cowboys organization over the last few years. There will likely be a number of teams interested in adding Bryant to their receiving corps, but these might be the favorites.
New York Giants
If the Giants retain Brandon Marshall, this isn’t going to happen. But if Marshall is released at some point, it would open up a spot for Dez Bryant on the outside. Eli Manning would benefit by having another target to throw the ball up to in the red zone, as Bryant remains one of the league’s better touchdown-scorers even as his played has declined. The Giants fit the twice-a-year NFC East theme better than the Redskins and Eagles.
Again, the Redskins are an NFC East team, and Dez apparently wants to stay in the division to play Dallas twice next season. It is more difficult to find a spot for Bryant in the Redskins receiving corps given they just signed Paul Richardson, have Jamison Crowder locked into the slot, and have Josh Doctson looking to breakout after he showed major flashes in his second season. Perhaps Washington isn’t fully confident in Doctson and wants to go with the veteran Bryant instead, but we’ll see.
The Texans have a deep receiving corps that includes Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller behind DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, but they could still add Bryant and insert him as a top-three option with Hopkins and Fuller. The move wouldn’t be a long trip for Bryant from Dallas to Houston, and Houston is actually closer to his hometown of Lufkin, Texas. And who wouldn’t want to go catch passes from Deshaun Watson?
Well, if Dez wants to play his former team twice next season, that’s also possible with a non-divisional foe. Dallas faces the NFC South during the regular season, so it’s possible the Cowboys face the Panthers in the regular season before meeting again in the playoffs. Cam Newton’s style as a passer seems like it would mesh well with Bryant’s style as a receiver.
The Colts have been one of the most frugal teams in free agency this year, but maybe they feel Bryant is someone they should go after. Bryant profiles similarly to former Colt Donte Moncrief as a potential touchdown-converter down in the red zone, but as a former All-Pro, he has done it at a much higher level. T.Y. Hilton’s ability to stretch the field would help open things up for Bryant underneath and over the middle.
There were some rumors popping up months ago about a potential Dez Bryant-for-Earl Thomas trade, which didn’t seem to make much sense. But now that Bryant is free to sign with any team, maybe a deal will come together. This would also fit the twice-a-year statement Bryant made if Dallas and Seattle meet in the postseason, as they both finished second in their division last season and will square off at some point this regular season. Bryant is going to want to win, and joining Russell Wilson—even on a team that appears to be re-tooling—would give him a good chance.
Brice Butler might not be happy about this one if it means it hurts his chances of starting for the Cardinals, but there might be room for both of them as flankers for Larry Fitzgerald in the slot. The Cardinals would have the biggest wide receiver group in the NFL if they add Bryant. For Bryant personally, it might be good to see Fitz up close every day to see how he plays the game in a nuanced manner that has allowed him to be so productive as he ages.