Former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has frequented team news of late, working out with some prominent current Cowboys.
In recent months we have seen Dez go from vocally campaigning for another shot in Dallas to catching passes from Dak Prescott alongside Ezekiel Elliott.
With the quarterback now all but vouching for him, and the owner “thinking about it in the shower,” the 2nd act in Dallas is looking less like a pipe dream and more of a probability for the team’s all-time receiving TD leader.
I am staunchly against Dez Bryant returning to Dallas. I think that there is a much higher likelihood of things going sideways than there is for a happy ending (for reasons I will detail ahead). Nonetheless, with a reunion looking more and more likely.
Here are five things that absolutely must happen if Dez Bryant once again becomes a Dallas Cowboy.
1) Dez Must Be Signed After the NFL Draft
If the team ultimately decides to bring Bryant back aboard, they absolutely must not do so before the NFL draft. Firstly, there is no need to, at all. The Cowboys’ need for Dez Bryant is small, and so is his market. He has been pretty vocal about his preference to return as a Cowboy. If a team makes him an offer that makes him push his Cowboy loyalty to the side, then it probably involves a dollar amount that the Cowboys don’t have any business paying him.
As it has been well stated, we are looking at a remarkably deep WR class. This team absolutely cannot allow a Dez Bryant signing trick them into thinking they need to wait until late into Saturday afternoon to take a wideout or pass on the position entirely. Does a 31-year-old player, two years removed from the game preclude a team from making a high selection at that player’s position? For a normal NFL franchise, absolutely not. However, these are the Cowboys, and this brings me to my next point.
2) Nostalgia Must Die
Nepotism and favoritism are not uncommon in the sports world, but they are rare themes in winning organizations. When it comes to preferential treatment based on history and nostalgia, the Cowboys are almost diseased. If you need an example, look no further than to the Jason Witten disaster of 2019. Sold to the fans as a role player/mentor signing and projected to play just 25% of the team’s offensive snaps; before we knew it, Jason Witten was clogging up the passing game in a full-time gig (75.9% snaps).
If Dez Bryant comes to training camp as a Dallas Cowboy, the warm-fuzzies need to go out the window.
The team receiving TD record, the lore of the Cowboys #88 jersey, ‘throw up the X,’ none of it matters.
The only thing that ever matters is giving the team the best possible chance to win. Dez Bryant needs to come to camp and make the team. Dez needs to come in on even ground with the mid-round picks, the UDFA’s, and everyone else battling for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th WR roster spots. It remains to be seen if special teams coordinator John Fassel wants down-roster WRs on his kick coverage units, but if he does, then Dez needs to be up to that task as well. If Dez finds himself in a neck and neck camp battle with another player who covers kicks and he won’t/can’t, then the tie needs to go to the more useful player.
It is my hope that some of the buddies-over-business school of thought went out the door with Jason Garrett. My hope is much different than my expectation, as I remember that the men who showed Jason Garrett the door, took a week to do so for the sake of sparing feelings.
3) Disciplined Dez
The failed synergy between Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott needs to be blamed on both parties. Sometimes it just doesn’t click, and both guys have a hand in the failure. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. What cannot be overlooked is the fact that Bryant, regardless of who is pulling the trigger, has not ever been the most trustworthy receiver. Even when Dez was on his 3-year reign of terror (2012-2014), between the big plays were too many moments of lack of discipline. Miscommunication with the QB, rounded/stopped routes, extra moves at the top of a route disrupting timing, freelancing, getting tied up, and not getting to his spot on time.
If a return is going to work, Dez is going to have to take his craft more seriously than he ever has. It’s not just about being a beast on contested catches. It’s about being trusted to be where you are supposed to be and arriving at that destination on time. That’s the way this quarterback likes things, and it’s not an unreasonable expectation for an NFL wideout.
Dez is also going to have to learn a new playbook and know the jobs of all of the wide receivers. Dez was already having trouble winning on the outside two years and one Achilles tendon ago. It’s unlikely he is going to be very effective on the perimeter outside of the red zone, so he is likely going to play inside quite a bit. Inside he is going to have to be trusted to see the same thing the quarterback is seeing and find the voids in zones. This has never been the strongest area for his game, but it needs to be now.
4) Dez, The Good Soldier
Is the Dez Bryant who claims to be content with playing 3rd or 4th fiddle a changed man, or a booted boyfriend saying anything he thinks will get him back in the house?
If Dez is coming back to be the 3rd or 4th wideout, he needs to have the profile of a 3rd or 4th wideout. Yes, he is still a fan favorite. Yes, he is a passionate guy who will get people fired up. Yes, the place is going to erupt when he throws up the ‘X.’ The times when things are going good are not, and have never been the issue with Dez Bryant.
3rd and 4th wide receivers don’t get to be negatively demonstrative, or really do anything that can be perceived as negatively demonstrative. He can’t throw his hands up and play the blame game with the QB after an incompletion. He can’t get into personal battles with cornerbacks that overshadow the actual game. We have seen Dez be hard on his position coaches. There won’t be any room for that either.
You had better believe that the media is going to needle Dez and try to bait him into mincing his words and coming off as a malcontent any time they can. Dez is going to need to be an absolute master on the microphone, regardless of how he may really feel.
5) Cowboys Have to Know When to Fold ‘Em
In congruence with point #2, the Cowboys have to put business over feelings with Dez Bryant. Whether it be early in training camp, cut down day, or a Monday morning in October. If the Cowboys, at any point, feel like the reunion isn’t working, they have to be willing to pull the plug. Dez Bryant can’t get extra chances because he is Dez Bryant. If he gets beat out in training camp, he simply gets beat. Jersey sales or history can’t tip things Bryant’s way. If Bryant isn’t contributing midseason, things start getting tense, and hard-to-deal-with Dez begins once again to rear his head, the team has to be willing to make the hard decision to let go.
I may not agree with every move the Cowboys make, but I absolutely support the team on Sundays no matter what the circumstances may be.
If the Cowboys do bring Dez Bryant back for another go-round, I will hope that the guy they are bringing back is a disciplined, plus-sized slot and red-zone demon with a newfound sense of maturity.
I will not, however, be optimistic about things unfolding in such a manner.
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