The Dallas Cowboys applied the franchise tag to wide receiver Dez Bryant Monday afternoon, as expected. What wasn’t expected was Bryant’s reaction. Or, more to the point, lack of reaction.
One expected Bryant to have something to say, given that he took to Twitter during the NFL Scouting Combine to voice his lack of satisfaction with the impending tag. But a quick check of Bryant’s Twitter account Tuesday morning showed no original tweets since that February 20 screenshot of his statement on his iPhone notepad. His only two tweets since February 20 have been retweets, both about Bryant, naturally.
Meanwhile, shortly after the Cowboys applied the tag to Bryant, they took full advantage, sending an e-mail to Cowboys fans through their online store imploring them to “Get Your Bryant Gear!”
It’s true. I got one. Jerry Jones never misses a beat, does he? In Jerry’s World I guess a franchise tag is cause to prod Cowboys Nation to buy a new jersey.
Now, the franchise tag isn’t chump change. It’s reportedly $12.823 million in 2015. That’s guaranteed money as long as Bryant signs the tag. That’s the average of the top five salaries among wide receivers.
The Cowboys see it as validation of Bryant’s immense ability. No one has caught more receiving touchdowns the past three years than Bryant. The tag means they can keep negotiating a long-term deal with Bryant and his agent, Tom Condon, a negotiation that should lead to more guaranteed money than Bryant has probably ever dreamed of.
NFL players, of course, see the tag as a punishment of sorts. It basically keeps them from testing free agency after four of five years of a rookie contract.
The Cowboys have made it clear they intend to get something done long-term. Bryant’s decision to leave his former agent, Eugene Parker, and slide over to Condon may have something to do with all of this. Condon became Bryant’s agent in November, after Bryant chose to sign with Roc Nation — Jay Z’s agency — for marketing purposes. Condon and the Cowboys reportedly didn’t meet about Bryant’s new deal until last week.
There’s also the off-the-field stuff. You’ve seen the stories. First, there was the report filed by NFL.com in November that detailed six different incidents at Bryant’s DeSoto house that, when analyzed, seemed to indicate that Bryant wasn’t even at home at the time.
Then last week NFL.com filed a new story about an incident in 2011 at a Wal-Mart in DeSoto. I read that police report too. What did I learn? Bryant had three cars. No arrests or charges were filed. Some web sites claimed there was “video” of the incident. But none has surfaced.
Did any of this influence the situation? Hard to say. But the situation certainly unfolded to the Cowboys’ advantage.
Condon went on SiriusXM radio on Monday, just before the tag deadline, and said what agents say in these situations. He explained what Bryant’s options are and explained that the Cowboys have told him that they didn’t want to lose Bryant. Condon, by the way, has negotiated deals for Tony Romo and Jason Witten, so he knows how to play Jerry’s game.
But he did plant one juicy, if unlikely, little nugget.
The franchise tag all but ensures a potential free agent player will remain with his team that season. Note that I wrote “all but ensures.” There is a scenario that allows Bryant to bolt for another team. In this scenario the suitor has to offer Bryant a massive chunk of change, the Cowboys have to choose not to match it and the suitor has to give up two first-round picks.
Condon spoke about how special Bryant was as a player, as special as Michael Irvin, he said. Then he tossed out a scenario that would cut Cowboys fans off at the knees.
“If you’re picking late in the first round, the last four or five picks, and you know Dez Bryant is a special player, do you give up a very late pick in the first round and a late pick in the first round next year to ensure you’re competing for the Super Bowl for the next several years?” Condon theorized. “That part is pretty interesting.”
Now a reality check. There are nearly 100 players that have received the franchise tag under the new format since 2007. I can’t think of a single instance in which that scenario took place.
But it certainly didn’t stop Condon from messing with Cowboys’ fans heads, did it?
Chances are the Cowboys will get a long-term deal done. Chances are Bryant will be quite happy with it. Chances are the road will get a little bumpier as we get there.