Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith might be the new $110 million man thanks to Wednesday's deal, as reported by ESPN.com's Todd Archer, but it was Dez Bryant who smiled the widest when it was announced.
See, Spotrac indicates Bryant will only make $1.78 million this year, but Smith's deal has opened up a wealth of possibilities for his future financial gain.
Smith's deal suggests the Cowboys want to struggle to retain their best player. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Smith ranked as the No. 7 overall tackle in the NFL last year, allowing just one sack in the process and ranking No. 2 in pass-blocking efficiency behind only Joe Staley.
Keep in mind it was just the 23-year-old's second year on the blind side.
Even Bryant congratulated Smith upon announcement of the news:
Now look at Bryant. He is 25 and comes with a serious upward trajectory of his own, as the career numbers reveal:
“I’m confident in my play and I’m pretty sure that’s going to take care of itself,” Bryant told reporters last week. “There is no need for me to be stressed out or worried about it. It’s going to come. Like I say, [I’m] deserving. We’ll just wait and see what happens."
Bryant is on the right path, to say the least. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram suggests there is still enough cash for him to get a new deal as well, as improbable as that seems given the cap-space tightrope the Cowboys had to manage just to get Smith's deal on the books.
The hiccup in that potentially working out is, of course, the front office in Dallas.
According to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, "The Cowboys want to see their No. 1 receiver continue to exhibit increasing maturity before forking over a boatload of guaranteed money."
Maturity seems to be an archaic criticism of Bryant at this point, but those who control the checkbook in Dallas seem content to use it as a means to drag their feet.
All that means is Bryant will be slapped with the franchise tag next offseason, a number that will steadily continue to rise up to about $13 million as the salary cap continues to rise.
It truly doesn't matter if Bryant posts another 90 catches, 1,200 yards and double-digit scores—the Cowboys will hit him with the tag either way armed with the understanding that the rest of the market will pay him based on future production.
There is a lack of long-term commitment with the tag, sure, but the end result is Bryant eventually hitting the market and getting the biggest contract in NFL history for a player at his position.
Look at the ever-escalating market, courtesy of Over The Cap:
|Over The Cap|
It is quite the funny list, to say the least.
Dwayne Bowe has tumbled off a cliff in recent years. Minnesota overpaid Greg Jennings for the sake of doing so. Miami overreacted in a silly bidding war for Mike Wallace. Percy Harvin was gifted an extension despite missing 10 games in four years—and then missed 15.
Now think about players at the position who are eligible for new deals.
Demaryius Thomas, a year removed from 92 receptions for 1,430 yards and 14 scores, is going to get paid. So is Alshon Jeffery (89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns). As is A.J. Green (98 catches for 1,426 yards and 11 TDs).
A new breed of wideout is set to hit the market—this will not be a year in which one guy (Wallace) can drive up the price because he is the only worthwhile name on it.
So if all of Bryant's money went to Smith, he gets a tag. Then he either negotiates a deal with Dallas based on one of the record deals set by the above names or enters the market around the same time they do and helps to usher in a new era of ludicrous contracts.
Either way, Bryant wins.
He may not have been the front office's first priority, but that is just more motivation to bully defensive backs on every down and stay healthy for the eventual mountainous payday.
It's coming, and the cash thrown at Smith was a necessary, somewhat predictable step in the climb toward Bryant likely breaking the record books when the Cowboys—or his new team—whip out the checkbook.
All that is up for debate at this point is the when aspect.