Cowboys, Bryant reach $70M deal
IRVING, Texas — Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys have the long-term contract both sides said they wanted during a long stalemate that came right up against the deadline to get a deal done.
The All-Pro receiver signed the five-year, $70 million deal Wednesday, less than an hour before he would have run out of time to play under anything other than a one-year agreement in 2015.
A person close to the negotiations provided contract terms to The Associated Press because they weren't announced. The deal, which includes $45 million in guaranteed money, is similar to one that Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas got at about the same time as Bryant.
The 26-year-old Bryant, who led the NFL in touchdowns receiving with 16 last season, had threatened to skip training camp and regular-season games without a contract to replace the $12.8 million offer for one year he had under the franchise tag.
Owner Jerry Jones flew to New York to meet with agent Tom Condon and representatives of Jay Z's Roc Nation talent agency. Jones said they were up until early Wednesday morning discussing terms, and the owner felt confident a deal was close to done when he went to bed.
"There was never a doubt in my mind that we wanted a long-term deal with Dez," Jones said. "We just had to get the pot right."
Now the Cowboys can focus on defending their NFC East title and trying to make a deeper playoff run after one that ended on Bryant's much-debated catch that wasn't in a divisional-round loss to Green Bay.
The deal also ended the contract-related drama that filled the offseason for the Cowboys. First, they decided not to match Philadelphia's offer on running back DeMarco Murray in free agency, and let the NFL rushing leader go to one of their division rivals. Then the focus turned to Bryant, who has the most touchdowns receiving in the league since 2010, when Dallas drafted him late in the first round after his stock fell over concerns about off-the-field issues.
"As well as we know him, you see the kind of commitment that we've made here," Jones said. "That says everything about what feel about him on and off the field. He's made tremendous strides since he came out of college, relative to his complete maturation."
In the months before the deal was reached, Bryant would occasionally use Twitter to express frustration over not having what he thought was a suitable offer. The most pointed threat came Monday, when he tweeted he would "not be there if no deal," clearly a reference to training camp coming up in two weeks. Bryant had already said he would consider missing games, at a cost of about $750,000 each time he didn't play.
"Unquestionably, this is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys to have the contract and the terms we've got as opposed to the franchise (tag) and ongoing or future negotiations regarding his contract," Jones said.
Bryant never signed the franchise tender, so Dallas couldn't fine Bryant for missing offseason workouts and camp practices. Bryant didn't practice all spring, but did show up from time to time. That included the final mandatory minicamp workout, when he had a 15-minute conversation with Jones.
Because of those appearances, the Cowboys were gambling that the passionate Bryant simply wouldn't be able to stay away once games started. Now Dallas doesn't have to worry about it.
The Cowboys believed they could let Murray walk because they've assembled one of the NFL's best offensive lines, bolstered by three first-round picks in the past five drafts. The last of those, Zack Martin, was the first rookie All-Pro for Dallas since Calvin Hill in 1969.
But the prospect of playing without Bryant was more daunting for Dallas. He has more catches (381), yards (5,424) and touchdowns (56) through five years than any receiver in franchise history — a list that includes Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Bob Hayes.
The most accomplished receiver behind Bryant is Terrance Williams, who has 81 grabs for 1,357 yards and 13 TDs in two seasons.