On Tuesday, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team does not have any meetings scheduled with Bryant’s agent to talk about reworking his contract. Asked Wednesday if he wanted Bryant to return to the Cowboys in 2018, head coach Jason Garrett said the team has not had specific personnel meetings about any players yet.
“We had a wrap-up meeting at the end of the season, almost reviewing what happened last year,” Garrett said from the NFL scouting combine, “and we’ll have some more meetings starting this week, and then once we get back to Dallas about the specific roles for each of our players going forward.”
If Bryant’s future with the team was secure, there would be no need to entertain the possibilities of releasing him or asking him to take a pay cut, and the front office and coach would say so. The Cowboys’ decisions are these: Pay him $12.5 million and have him count $16.5 million against the cap, ask him to take a pay cut or release him.
There is no pressing need to make a move almost two weeks before free agency begins, since the Cowboys do not need the extra cap room.
“Obviously, a [decision] is going to happen sooner than later,” Jones said. “We’ve got the new year coming up. We have a lot of moving parts. We have been getting our staff together. Once we got our staff together, we have had some meetings. Then, of course, Jason [Garrett], his father passed, which was very unfortunate. We will spend a lot of time together this week. I’m sure we will start to make some pretty good headway.”
Like Jones, Garrett praised Bryant’s time with the Cowboys. Bryant is the franchise leader in touchdown catches. He put up three straight seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.
“We have a tremendous amount of love for Dez Bryant as an organization,” Garrett said. “He’s made so many contributions to our team. I personally have a lot of love for him as a player and more so as a person. The growth and development that he’s made over the course of his career with us has been exponential and has made a huge impact on our team.”
But business intersects with production. Bryant’s production has fallen in the past three years, and not solely because of his play. He had foot and knee injuries in 2015 and ’16. The Cowboys had poor quarterback play in 2015, with Tony Romo playing just four games because of a twice-broken collarbone. In 2016, the Cowboys were a run-first offense led by Ezekiel Elliott. In 2017, the offense stagnated in the second half of the season in part of because of Elliott’s suspension.
“Obviously, there are a lot of decisions we have to make with our team,” Garrett said. “Like we’ve talked about, your 2018 team will be different than 2017. We have some guys who are out of contract. We have some guys at different kinds of contracts that you have to discuss every year.”