Today, April 13th, 2018, the Dallas Cowboys have official released their number one wide receiver Dez Bryant. Dez Bryant has been a Cowboy since being drafted 24th overall back in 2010. Now, 8 years later, Dez will now have the opportunity to pick where he wants to play for next season.
Since the moment it was announced the two parties were parting ways, social media and news outlets have blown up. Numerous websites such as ESPN, CBSSports, TheScore, Bleacher Report and more released numerous articles on this breaking news talking about “Top Ten Landing Spots for Dez Bryant”, “Best fits for Dez”, and “Dez Bryant being recruited by..”. Lets face it, Dez Bryant(in my opinion) is no longer a top 5 wideout. He is not a top ten wide receiver. I could even argue he is not even top 15 or even top 20 in the league.
Bryant’s most productive seasons came in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In those three seasons combine, he tore up secondaries in the NFL compiling 41 touchdowns, 3,935 receiving yards on 273 catches. He also has two career punt return touchdowns. He did all this damage with Tony Romo under center. Though he had major production during that time, since then, Bryant has not reached the thousand yard mark. Bryant has had a major drop off since fracturing his foot week one against the Giants in 2015. You could say his drop off came as a result of not being 100 percent healthy and playing with a young quarterback in Dak Prescott, and that may be the case. However, the Cowboys in 2016 had an elite offense and was targeted 96 times. He only had 50 catches.
Dez Bryant has struggled with drops in recent years and has lost the ability to gain separation from defenders. Being 29, his window as a number one receiving option is over. It is widely believed by NFL coaches and executives that once a running back turns 30, their career drops off. This belief is partly because of all the hits and all the touches a running back gets during a season. For a wide receiver, that necessarily isn’t the case, especially due to all the new pass interference and personal foul calls to protect the receiver. There are three key traits to have success in the NFL as a pass catcher: good hands, strong legs, and the ability to gain separation. Does Dez Bryant has any of these traits at this point of his career? The answer is no. He drops a lot of passes, and to me catches a lot of balls with his body. As talked about before, he has not been the same since fracturing his foot three years ago and does not have the speed or the separation ability he had once had.
Now, it is not impossible for Dez to be a productive receiver. There were cases of older wide receivers, Brandon Marshall, Anquon Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. for example, that have had Pro Bowl caliber seasons after the age of 30. Those players were in situations where they played with veteran quarterbacks and had more talent around them and all three are potential future Hall of Famers.
Another thing that has rubbed me the wrong way along with many others is his maturity issues. It is not a secrete that Bryant was immature in his first few years in the NFL. For example, Dez was caught going out and breaking the teams curfew back in 2012 after the Cowboys had set a new policy. He contradicted himself that year by saying he supported the new policy, yet he went out and broke it. Though he had the off day the night after the incident, if you are going to break the rules, do not go out and support the rule prior to you breaking it. He also was nursing an injury at the time and had other issues on the field. Though he is not as immature as he was earlier in his career, he still does show signs of not being that mature person the Cowboys wanted him to be. Looking back at earlier today, Dez Bryant was tweeting nonstop, blaming the “Garrett guys” for his release and responding to and retweeting tweets directed towards him regarding his release. He also walked out of his meeting and told reporters that he will see Dallas twice a year, expressing his interest in wanting to stay in the NFC East. He did tell NFL Network reporter Jane Slater that he would have taken a paycut if asked and was never offered that option. It is, though, understandable to why he was very eager to speak out due to how personal he took it.
Now, I do not have to go back and recap the rest of the off the field issues and sideline tantrums he has thrown because those are known. Unfortunately for him, now at the age of 29, Dez wants to get a receiver coach and be 100 percent committed to football. What NFL players do not always realize is how important they are to their team when they are not on the field. The time for Dez Bryant to be a game changer and a leader in the locker room is over. That window has closed in Dallas. I mentioned before the lack of ability to separate, and with Dez now wanting to train with a receiving coach is too late. With teams looking at what the Eagles and Rams have done, teams would rather opt to take a chance on a wideout in the draft and develop that player in their system. For football players, it is important to be mature. As a journalist, it is okay to be immature at 23. It is okay to be immature at 29. The reason is because the window to make money in journalism or broadcasting or a lot of fields is on going. You could afford to be immature(to an extent obviously) because the window is much larger than being an athlete. Bryant had eight seasons to smarten up and commit his mind fully to football, and now that he wants to, it was too late, at least in Dallas.
I believe that for Dez Bryant to succeed, he needs to sign with a team with a accurate quarterback(preferably a veteran one) and a team were he does not have to be the go to guy. I do not think that the Giants and Eagles would sign him due to salary cap issues. The Redskins would be a very interesting option as I do think he would play well with Alex Smith and they have the room to add him but reports have stated that he is not on their radar and they are content with their receiving core. Obviously Bryant will sign with a team outside of the NFC East if he is not offered a contract by one of those teams. Teams like the Patriots, the Chargers, the Panthers and the Falcons would all be nice fits for Bryant. I believe he has some gas left in the tank, but the majority of his success should be in the red zone as he still is a taller receiver.
With this being said, I never wish to see anyone fail and I hope Dez could bounce back from this and use it as motivation to be the best player he could be. We will only be able to tell once the season is underway.