Dez Bryant has made it clear he wants a new contract that rewards him for becoming one of the top receivers in the game. The Cowboys have had preliminary discussions with Bryant’s agent, Eugene Parker, but the fifth-year veteran isn’t going to let the business side of football interfere with his play.
“I love this game, and I always have,” Bryant said Monday. “As long as I keep doing what I’m doing, that stuff will handle itself.”
Bryant’s attitude has impressed Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who made an example of Bryant last week. While special teams was having its eight-minute period during the Cowboys’ organized team activities, Bryant caught footballs on the JUGS machine. He did the same thing Monday.
“He’s over there by himself with a couple of managers, hammering footballs at him, catching balls,” Garrett said. “I told our film guy, film that, and I showed our team that in the team meeting, because Dez Bryant arguably has the best hands I’ve ever seen. Players on our team feel the same way. He’s just such a natural, a natural catching the football. I tied to make the point to our team that you’re really not a natural catching the football, Dez just catches more balls than anybody else. He’s worn my arm out; he’s worn the managers’ arms out; the quarterbacks’ arms out.”
Garrett went so far as to compare Bryant to Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. Bryant, 25, has 293 catches for 4,104 yards and 40 touchdowns in his career. Irvin had 171 receptions for 2,968 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first four seasons.
“He loves the game,” Garrett said of Bryant. “He has a great passion for the game. Contract aside, he’s not worried about that. He’s trying to get himself to be the best player he can be to help our team be the best it can be. He does it every day. He’s really demonstrated some leadership qualities. I have a great fondness for Michael Irvin. I had the good fortune of playing with Michael for eight years. Michael Irvin set the pace and the tempo for our team all throughout the 90s. He worked harder than anybody else. And Dez Bryant has a lot of those same traits. If you get a chance, watch Dez in one-on-ones, watch him in routes on air, watch him warm-up. He just does it the right way. He wants to play the game at a very high level. Any contract concerns don’t show up on the practice field. He’s trying to be the best player he can be.”
Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is the league’s highest-paid receiver with an average of $16.2 million per season. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million), Seattle’s Percy Harvin ($12.9 million) and Miami’s Mike Wallace ($12 million) also rank among the highest-paid at the position.
Bryant will make $1.78 million in 2014, the final year of his rookie deal.
The Cowboys could franchise Bryant for 2015 if they are unable to come to a long-term agreement. The franchise tag was $12.3 million for receivers in 2014.
Anthony Spencer twice received the franchise tag from the Cowboys before undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee last year. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million but with only $250,000 guaranteed for 2014.
“We have to see,” Bryant said of the idea of the Cowboys using the franchise tag on him. “I know you’re going to hate this answer, but me and my agent have to sit down and talk about that kind of stuff, and the rest of it should really take care of itself.”
Bryant has done all the right things, on the field and off, the past two seasons to warrant being paid big money. And the new deal, he insists, will take care of itself because of that.
"I’m not going to be out here, sitting out and doing all that crazy stuff," Bryant said. "I’m just going to play football. If it’s deserved, it will come."
-- Charean Williams