The Jones family continues to play good cop/bad cop when it comes to Dez Bryant.
While owner Jerry Jones insists he wants Bryant back with the Cowboys, his son, and team executive vice president, Stephen Jones has been singing a slightly different melody.
The younger Jones continued to express hesitation in bringing Bryant back at a $12.5 million base salary Thursday night when the attended the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award ceremony.
“No one wants to compete and get after it more than Dez,” Jones said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “At the same time, we all know this is a business where everybody has to be accountable. Certainly everybody knows that. That’s a tough one. Certainly we’re going to be grinding it out and trying to determine what is in the best interest of our business.
“Dez understands this is a business. No one thinks more of Dez Bryant than starting at the top, Jerry, and certainly me, his teammates, coach [Jason] Garrett, Will McClay. We all have a tremendous amount of respect for Dez. That’s one of the things that we’re going to have to work through as we move into our future.”
The Cowboys would have an easy time swallowing Bryant’s $16.5 million salary-cap hit if he’d played like a dominant No. 1 receiver in recent years. He hasn’t.
The 29-year-old wide receiver hasn’t reached the 900-yard barrier (let alone 1,000) since 2014. Since signing his new contract in 2015, Bryant is averaging 53.55 yards per game played (2,035 total yards in 38 games). For comparison, the NFL’s top wideout, Antonio Brown, has almost double that average over the same span: 103.35 yards per tilt (4,651 yards in 45 games). Even a 34-year-old Larry Fitzgerald has made Dez look old. Fitzy averaged 70.70 yards per game since 2015. (3,394 yards in 48 games). Bryant is closer (but still not better) than the production of Golden Tate, who has compiled 60.27 yards per game since 2015 (2,893 yards in 48 games) but makes way less money than the Cowboys’ star (Tate: $7 million in 2018; Bryant: $12.5 million).
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“We won’t let D-Law not be a Dallas Cowboy next year. We’ll get that straight right now,” Jones said, per Dave Helman of DallasCowboys.com. “We’ll do everything we can to try to make something work, and if we don’t get it done then we’ll franchise tag him. Then we’ll go back to work. We’d like to not have that franchise tag hanging out there. We’ve got a big negotiation ahead of us. But we don’t want Demarcus Lawrence going anywhere.”
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Thursday that Lawrence’s agent has yet to meet with the Cowboys but that will change next week in Indianapolis at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.
Pelissero adds the talks will not go anywhere unless the Cowboys offer Lawrence at least the $17 million price tag that Olivier Vernon got from the Giants two years ago. Vernon and Lawrence share the same agent — David Canter.
Those two games Gathers referred to were last year’s preseason tilts in which he compiled seven catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns, looking every bit the athletic freak that got him drafted despite not playing football in college. However, Gathers suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit during training camp and was eventually placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
The tight end spent his rookie season on the Cowboys’ practice squad after being drafted in the sixth round.
The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Gathers played basketball at Baylor University before leaping directly to the NFL. His raw enticing athleticism led the Cowboys to use a draft pick on the TE, despite Gathers not playing football since middle school. There was some thought in 2016 when Dallas cut Gathers before the season that a team might scoop up the tight end and carry him on the active roster just to get the freak athlete in the building. Gathers, however, has remained on the sideline in Dallas.
The Cowboys will return Jason Witten for a 16th season, but Jason Garrett & Co. would be tickled pink if Gathers lived up to the hype and became a pass-catching weapon for Dallas in 2018.