Dallas Cowboys Receiver Dez Bryant Will Get Paid Later, but the Money Will Come

Clarence Hill@clarencehilljrFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

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Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant is gonna be a rich man one day.

He will get a contract commensurate to his status as one of the top five receivers in the NFL.

It just likely won't happen before the start of the 2014 season.

And if that's the case—considering that Bryant said there will be no negotiating during the season— then it will happen after it.

But one way or another, Bryant, 25, is going to get paid.

He's also going to remain a Cowboy for life.

That's what Bryant wants.

And that's what owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys want.

The only thing at issue is the manner in which he gets the money.

"I don't know," Jones said when asked if the two sides could get a deal done before Sunday's season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

"Certainly I don't mean to say anything is a given or easy, but I do want what's in his best interest and I want him to be a long-term player for the Cowboys. He knows that. I'm proud of the progress he's made, and we'll just see if we can make this work for everybody."

Clearly, the devil is in the details of the last statement.

Bryant, who is due to make $1.78 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, is looking at the bottom line.

Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, Seattle's Percy Harvin and Miami's Mike Wallace all have deals worth more than $12 million a year.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Bryant wants a long-team deal in that luxurious neighborhood along with an equivalent signing bonus or guarantees in excess of $20 million.

"I believe a player should get paid what he deserves," Bryant said. "If I'm top five, I'm top five. If I'm top three, I'm top three. If I'm top two, I'm top two. It is what it is."

The Cowboys don't disagree that Bryant is a budding superstar and one of the league's best receivers. He is coming off his first Pro Bowl and catching 93 passes for 1,233 yards last season. His 25 touchdown receptions over the past two years rank No. 1 in the league.

Honestly, the Cowboys want to reward Bryant for his production and the maturity he's shown on and off the field.

He is no longer tardy to team meetings. He has a keen grasp of the offense and is such an improved route-runner that the Cowboys are now moving him all over the field as the focal point of the team's attack.

Bryant has also had no off-field incidents since a misdemeanor family violence charge before the 2012 season. He went to counseling and the matter was dismissed by the Dallas County District Attorney's office after a year staying arrest-free.

But while the Cowboys acknowledge Bryant's growth as a player and as a man, they refuse to let bygones be bygones when it comes to negotiating his contract.

As former Cowboys receiver Keyshawn Johnson used to say, "It's not show friends, it's show business."

Joel Corry of National Football Post noted, "The structure of Bryant’s contract may be just as big of an issue as the compensation."

The Cowboys want an incentive-laden, pay-as-you-go deal, so to speak, possibly with early outs in case Bryant reverts to his old ways.

Consider the structure of the three-year, $24 million deal receiver DeSean Jackson signed with the Washington Redskins last spring. It included a modest signing bonus, hefty workout bonuses to ensure he stays around in the offseason and per-game roster bonuses.

But the Cowboys are also comfortable slapping the franchise tag on Bryant, guaranteeing him more than $12.3 million in 2015. But it would come in weekly checks with no up-front bonus money. The Cowboys can do that for three years at escalating costs.

The franchise tag would go up 120 percent in 2016. A third year under the tag would up the ante to the quarterback's franchise tag number of $16.92 million.

But there is precedent in Dallas, as defensive end Anthony Spencer played under the franchise tag in 2012 and 2013, earning a whopping $19.4 million both seasons combined.

Bryant doesn't want it to come to that, but he also knows the money will be coming one way or another.

"I honestly feel like what I do sooner or later, I'm going to get what I deserve," Bryant said. "I believe it. That's why I don't stress about it. There's no need to stress about it. It's coming. I know it's coming. So no need to worry about it."

Adding intrigue to the Bryant negotiations is the personal interest that Jones has taken in them. He has met privately with Bryant without his agent, Eugene Parker, a couple of times in the last week.

It would give the impression that Jones is trying to make inroads around Parker to get Bryant to sign a Cowboy-friendly deal.

That certainly appeared to be he case early in the week when Bryant expressed optimism of a deal being close to getting done.

But while Bryant is just as fond of the Jones family for all the support it has given him since the Cowboys drafted him 24th overall in 2010, he has now adopted a similar business-like approach to the negotiations that Jones can't help but respect.

David Richard/Associated Press

"We have had good visits," Jones said. "It's a little different to be talking directly, for me to be talking directly with the player. I know of two that I've spent a lot of time directly talking with in some pretty sensitive areas when you're talking about money.

"We all understand what that means. One of them Michael Irvin. He asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later, and Emmitt Smith, he asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later. Troy [Aikman] always had Leigh Steinberg there, but we kind of talked straight in there together.

"I will say this, that all Hall of Famers and great players are as competitive with their business as they are on the field," Jones said. "I understand that. I had hundreds of negotiations, and I understand that it is a natural thing to get your back up a little bit when you're talking about your money.

"I'm saying that, I understand the competitiveness or the sensation you get when someone won't agree with you over money. I understand that as well as anybody breathing."

Jones said it's easy for him to talk to Bryant because they have good personal talks in good and bad times over the last few years.

That Bryant is handling the talks and the impasse without getting emotional should be considered a good sign. That he wants to move into season, sans a new deal, and table discussions until after the season so he can play his best without distractions is also a sign of maturity.

"Once the season starts, I'm all in," Bryant said. "I've got this team to worry about. ... The work that I put in, the love, the real love, the real passion that I have for this game overtakes everything. I don't want to talk about it anymore. Put it behind me. I love this game. Either way, I feel like I can't be distracted once I'm on the football field."

Said Jones: "I know Dez, know him well, and he wants to have his mind on nothing but football. Obviously, he wants to be responsible as it pertains to his business, but it's a pleasure to have someone that the only thing other than his family that matters to him is playing football for the Dallas Cowboys.

"I know he wants to be able to walk out there against San Francisco and not think about anything else. That's a plus for everybody."

It's one that should be remembered when it's time for Bryant to get paid after the season.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.


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