The Dallas Cowboys have officially placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant was one of the top receivers in the league this past season and is likely looking for a big contract, but it's unclear if the Cowboys will be able to give him what he's after.
Given that Dallas broke a trend of disappointing seasons to take the NFC East and a spot in the playoffs this season, the Cowboys likely want to keep as much of the team together as possible. The franchise tag will keep Bryant with the Cowboys for one season, paying him the average of the top five salaries for players at his position for the season.
The franchise tag number for wide receivers was $12.41 million in 2014, and will go up slightly with an increase in the cap space this offseason. Bryant will want his long-term deal to place him among the top receivers when it comes to pay, which would put him near that $12 million mark regardless.
Calvin Johnson is the highest-paid receiver in the league at an average of just over $16 million per season, while someone like Mike Wallace currently makes $12 million per season. Bryant would be looking for Wallace-type money, especially after the numbers he put up this last season: 88 receptions for 1,320 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns.
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Dallas will likely continue working on a long-term deal with Bryant. The one hang-up is the potential off-the-field issues, for which the Cowboys have a "genuine concern," according to a report in November. That report was followed a week later by another saying that Dallas "won't lose" Bryant under any circumstances.
The Cowboys will have until July 15 to get a long-term deal signed, otherwise Bryant will have to play the 2015-16 season on the tag. It's a non-exclusive rights tag, which means Bryant can negotiate with other teams, but if he signs elsewhere, that team will have to give up two first-round picks.