The Dallas Cowboys signed wide receiver Dez Bryant to a long-term contract, the team announced on Wednesday. Bryant will now play on a five-year contract worth $70 million, with $45 million guaranteed, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.
Bryant gets $32 million guaranteed upon signing the deal. The full $45 million becomes guaranteed on March 15, 2016, the first day of the 2016 league year.
The Cowboys used the franchise tag on Bryant in March, which would have paid him $12.823 million for next season, but Bryant continually expressed his desire for a bigger deal. After months of back and forth between the two sides, they were finally able to reach an agreement before the July 15 deadline for long-term contracts.
Last season, Bryant was one of the top receivers in the league, and now he'll be paid like one. Although he won't earn as much as Calvin Johnson, who signed a seven-year, $113.45 million contract with the Detroit Lions in 2012, Bryant still got the pay raise he was seeking.
Bryant's deal came just minutes before Demaryius Thomas signed an almost identical deal with the Denver Broncos. Thomas, who was also a franchise-tagged player, wound up signing a five-year, $70 million extension with $43.5 million guaranteed. It was an interesting turn of events, given the fact that the Broncos and Cowboys were both targeted by the NFL Players Association with claims of collusion on the contracts of Bryant and Thomas.
Jerry Jones said there was no collusion in any way with the Broncos, according to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas. It's unclear if the concerns will be raised by the NFLPA going forward, given that Bryant and Thomas got deals within their market value.
In June, Bryant threatened to sit out of the Cowboys' season opener if he didn't have a new deal in place by the July deadline. He skipped a majority of the team's offseason workouts, though he did show up for the last mandatory minicamp session and participated a few times throughout OTAs in individual drills. On Monday, he doubled down on that threat, tweeting that he "will not be there if no deal" is reached.
The Cowboys reportedly didn't believe those threats, but the point is moot now that Bryant has the deal he wanted. While there were plenty of reports suggesting a deal wouldn't get done prior to and on Wednesday, as the deadline approached things started looking up. There was a late push for a long-term contract and two hours prior to the deadline, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that there was a tone shift and everyone was optimistic about a deal getting done.
Throughout the 2014 season, Bryant was Tony Romo's favorite target, grabbing 88 balls for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. Bryant has spent his entire career with the Cowboys, who selected him with 24th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He had injuries and other issues that limited him to just 561 yards during his rookie season, but he has turned in three straight seasons of 1,200-plus yards and 12-plus touchdowns.
Bryant fits the bill as a No. 1 receiver essentially anywhere in the league, and the 26-year-old should be expected to turn in a similar season to what he managed in 2014. His biggest concerns come from off-field issues. While Bryant hasn't been missing time due to any league punishments, a report from Rapoport in November suggested that the Cowboys were worried about Bryant's life outside of football and were hesitant to give him a long-term contract as a result. Those issues included six instances of police being called to Bryant's home, though arrests were never made.
Alongside running back DeMarco Murray, Bryant was a big reason for the Cowboys' success in 2014. After disappointing finishes the past few seasons, Dallas went into the playoffs with a 12-4 record and had a shot at a first-round bye as late as Week 17. The Cowboys could only franchise tag one player, and chose Bryant over Murray, who then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason.
With the new contract that makes him the second-highest paid receiver in the league, it's clear that the team thinks Bryant is a major key to the offense going forward.
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