In a move that felt inevitable all offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have released three-time pro bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant:
It was a short meeting between #Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dez Bryant. After months speculation, Bryant was released and a marquee 29-year old free agent is on the market midway through April with several WR needy teams.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 13, 2018
Bryant has recently been hampered by injury and ineffectiveness, catching just 17 touchdowns over the past three seasons. That pales in comparison to a dominant three-year stretch from 2012-2014 when Dez caught a total of 41 touchdowns, the most in the NFL during that span. Bryant will turn 30 this season and just hasn’t looked himself ever since Tony Romo departed as the Cowboys starting quarterback. However, some receiver-needy team will certainly pay him the sort of money the Cowboys were apparently no longer willing to shell out. Let’s break down four potential suitors for the ninth-year veteran from Oklahoma State.
Imagine Dez and Josh Norman battling every day in training camp? As it happens, the Redskins are one of the teams in the running to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer. That, plus two matchups against his former team every year? If I’m Roger Goodell, I’m hoping that Bryant heads for D.C. Ironically, Dez himself hinted at a return to the NFC East:
Dez walked out saying I'll see guys twice this year, I'm told. So that's that.
— Mickey Spagnola (@Spags52) April 13, 2018
Commercial interests aside, this match would make sense in football terms as well. Bryant isn’t really Alex Smith’s type of receiver, admittedly, but perhaps he can be the physical outside receiver that Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor struggled to become in Washington.
Green Bay Packers
How fitting that in the very year the NFL repeals the stupid rule that spawned the “Dez caught it” meme, Bryant has an opportunity to go to the team he should have buried with that catch. The release of longtime Packer Jordy Nelson has left a vacancy on the team’s receiver depth chart. One issue with this match is that Bryant probably wants to go to a team where he will be the clear-cut number one receiver. Even though Nelson is gone, Davante Adams remains Aaron Rodgers’ top target, and it’s no guarantee that Green Bay will be willing to pony up the money Bryant is looking for.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo is near the top of my list of quarterbacks who deserve to have better offensive weapons at their disposal. Marquise Goodwin is a nice player, but he doesn’t have the skill level or impact of a true number one target. If John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan think that Bryant can return to his previous form, or even 80% of what he was from 2012-2014, expect them to be very active in courting him.
Like Jimmy Garoppolo, Andrew Luck definitely deserves more talented receivers. The Colts do have T.Y. Hilton, but not much else behind him. Indy’s depth concerns partially stem from the departure of Donte Moncrief, a very similar player to Bryant. Dez is still one of the best “go up and get it” receivers in the NFL today, and I think that playing style would mesh well with Andrew Luck’s, provided that he can still throw a football.
It will be interesting to see what Bryant’s market is and when a team will sign him. General managers around the league could easily wait to see how the draft plays out before making a run at Dez.