Best NFL Landing Spots for Dez Bryant After Cowboys Cut WR

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 13, 2018

Best NFL Landing Spots for Dez Bryant After Cowboys Cut WR

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    Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Dez Days in Dallas are done.

    On Friday, the Cowboys released wide receiver Dez Bryant after eight seasons with the team.

    Bryant tallied 7,459 receiving yards and found the end zone 73 times with the Cowboys. The 29-year-old piled up three 1,000-yard seasons and an equal number of Pro Bowl nods while developing a reputation as one of the most feared red-zone threats in football.

    Bryant has fallen off of late, missing 10 games over the past three years and failing to hit 1,000 yards in a season since 2014. But it wasn't that long ago that he posted 1,300 receiving yards and 16 scores, and he's still on the right side of 30.

    Plenty of teams will line up to take a run at the big-bodied pass-catcher with the soft hands and reputation for speaking his mind—including more than a few clubs that will likely wish they had held back a bit more cap space.

    As Bryant becomes a surprise free-agent prize less than two weeks before the draft, here's a look at the suitors who make the most sense for both player and team.

The Long Shots

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    All of these teams are logical landing spots for Bryant to some extent, but each also has a sticking point that makes the deal relatively unlikely.

           

    10. Chicago Bears

    Even with the addition of Allen Robinson, the Bears need passing-game targets, and cap space ($24.5 million) isn't an issue. What is in question is whether Bryant would have interest in starting Phase 2 of his NFL career on a rebuilding team.

            

    9. Buffalo Bills

    There may not be a team that needs receiver help more than Buffalo, and with $15.3 million in wiggle room the Bills should be able to make a deal work. But just as with the Bears, Bryant's interest in playing for a so-so Bills team could be an issue.

          

    8. Seattle Seahawks

    The Seahawks only have about $9.3 million to spend, so some creative accounting would be in order. But Pete Carroll and Co. have never been shy about adding "vocal" players, and Paul Richardson's departure opened a hole in the Emerald City at wide receiver.

           

    7. New York Giants

    After Bryant's release Friday, Dallas sportscaster Mickey Spagnola tweeted that Bryant said he'd see the Cowboys "twice" next year. Given that statement, both the Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles could be in play. We'll get to Washington in a bit.

           

    6. New England Patriots

    Sure, it's unlikely Bill Belichick would add a loudmouth wide receiver after jettisoning another in Brandin Cooks in a recent trade with the Rams. But Bryant would add an element to the Patriots passing game that's missing, and Belichick has surprised us in the past.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Logan Bowles/Getty Images

    The Jacksonville Jaguars came within a game of the Super Bowl last year, but they have weaknesses. Chief among them on the offensive side of the ball is the lack of a true No. 1 receiver after Allen Robinson bolted in free agency.

    Get where we're going here?

    The Jaguars have ample cap space ($18.6 million) to make a deal with Bryant work. Jacksonville can offer Bryant the chance to vie for a playoff spot and Super Bowl run. He wouldn't even have to pay state income tax on his new deal—just like in Texas.

    The biggest thing in the way of Bryant to J-ville would likely be executive vice president Tom Coughlin. Bryant is as brash as they come, an attitude that may not mesh well with Coughlin's no-nonsense approach to, well, everything.

4. Houston Texans

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    With no first- or second-round pick in this year's draft, the Houston Texans probably won't add any impact players via that route in 2018. Houston added Tyrann Mathieu on defense, but there haven't been any "splash" signings on offense in free agency.

    Bryant affords a Texans team with almost $35 million in cap space one more (big) bite at that apple.

    The Texans could offer Bryant plenty of money, the opportunity to stay in Texas and an up-and-coming signal-caller to throw him the ball in Deshaun Watson. Bryant would offer the Texans a proven complement at wideout opposite superstar DeAndre Hopkins.

    That's the rub, though. In Houston, Bryant would be the clear second banana at the position.

    That's not a role he's accustomed to playing.

3. Washington Redskins

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    "I'll see [you] guys twice this year."

    Even before Bryant (reportedly) uttered those words, the Washington Redskins would have landed high on any list of potential suitors.

    Now? Washington has to be near the top, even after Mike Jones of USA Today tweeted he was told that Bryant is "not on their radar right now."

    The money's there for the Redskins—the team has about $17.3 million remaining, which should be enough to get both Bryant and the rookie class signed.

    The motivation's there as well. Jamison Crowder is an excellent slot receiver, the Redskins added Paul Richardson in free agency and youngster Josh Doctson has shown some flashes in his two seasons. But Washington's wide receivers feature more questions than answers. No one on the team had even 800 receiving yards in 2017.

    Provided he's healthy and can come close to his old form, Bryant would be Washington's best pass-catcher by a sizable margin the moment he stepped on the field—a "go-to" target for new quarterback Alex Smith.

    Daniel Snyder has never been shy about signing big names, and this is a double dip—both for the Redskins and Bryant.

    Not only does the team get better and the player get paid, but they get to stick it to Jerry Jones while they do it.

2. Carolina Panthers

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    It would take some masterful money movement for the Carolina Panthers to bring in Dez Bryant—the team only has about $7.5 million in wiggle room under the cap.

    You can bet general manager Marty Hurney is already crunching numbers.

    The Panthers were a playoff team in 2017, but that was in spite of their wide receivers, not because of them. The leader in catches was tailback Christian McCaffrey with 80. Devin Funchess led Carolina in receiving yards with 840.

    And the Panthers were 28th in the NFL in passing.

    The opportunity to add a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver this late in the game would be a massive gift for a team like the Panthers—a contender with a glaring hole Bryant would (in theory) fill quite nicely.

    It's just a matter of making the math work.

1. San Francisco 49ers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    We know the San Francisco 49ers have more than enough room available under the salary cap to sign Dez Bryant—a hair over $47 million, if you're into details.

    We know that whether in free agency or on draft day, San Francisco general manager John Lynch has shown a willingness to be ultra-aggressive in upgrading the roster. He traded for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and then handed him a $137.5 million extension after five starts.

    We also know the Niners need help at receiver. Marquise Goodwin played well last year but remains unproven. Pierre Garcon is more established, but he's 31 and returning from a season-ending neck injury.

    Taking a run at Bryant affords Lynch an unexpected chance to get better around Garoppolo and fire another salvo in the burgeoning NFC West arms race with the Los Angeles Rams.

    Lynch is probably already on the phone.

            

    Salary-cap data courtesy of Over the Cap.

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