The 29-year-old wide receiver was an expensive luxury the Cowboys could no longer afford, especially with a league-high $176.8 million in salary on the books for the upcoming season and just $1.1 million in wiggle room to improve last year’s 9-7 team. Releasing Bryant frees up another $8.5 million in cap space for a team in need of some fresh talent — and it also frees Bryant up to help another contender in 2018.
Though Bryant’s numbers dipped (52.4 yards per game, a career-low 12.1 yards per catch), he’s still an impact playmaker who will be playing with something to prove in 2018. So which team could use a former All-Pro who still led his team in each major receiving category last fall?
He’ll be a boost for a low-caliber offense, and while he’ll be a pricy addition, he’s not going to approach the $70 million deal he signed back in 2015. Bryant’s sudden, but not entirely unexpected availability will be a boon to a needy team, and he’s already got three in mind:
Dez walked out saying I'll see guys twice this year, I'm told. So that's that.— Mickey Spagnola (@Spags52) April 13, 2018
“Being in the division [the NFC East], that’s a huge possibility, “ Bryant told NFL Network’s Jane Slater. “That’s something that I want. ... It’s personal.”
Here’s who should be making a call to his representatives over at Roc Nation to see if he can come in for a meeting next week.
Washington spent big to bring deep threat Paul Richardson over from Seattle, but the club doesn’t have the kind of established veteran who can serve as new quarterback Alex Smith’s security blanket. Bryant would immediately rise to the top of the team’s depth chart, teaming with Richardson and Jamison Crowder to create a versatile three-headed monster at wideout.
Washington has an estimated $16 million in cap space left this spring, creating the room for Bryant to slide in without crippling their books. It would give him the chance to play with No. 1 rival/frenemy Josh Norman. And he’d get to play the Cowboys twice a year — including on Thanksgiving.
However, The Washington Post reported the team isn’t interested in Bryant — at least not right now.
General manager Chris Ballard needs to make a splash after 2017’s lost season and then the ignominy of being spurned by Josh McDaniels after announcing the Patriots offensive coordinator as his next head coach back in February. Bryant may not fit the team’s youth-movement rebuild, but he’d still bring value to an offense that ranked 30th in the league in passing offense last season.
The Colts have an estimated $61 million still left to spend this offseason, and could match or exceed any offer Bryant receives. The big question is whether they can sell him on Andrew Luck’s health; a Luck-Bryant-T.Y. Hilton combination would solve a lot of problems in Indianapolis. Jacoby Brissett-Bryant-Hilton isn’t nearly as intimidating.
Joe Flacco suffered through the worst season of his professional career in 2017 thanks in part to an underwhelming receiving corps led by Mike Wallace, who is now a Philadelphia Eagle. While the club signed John Brown and Michael Crabtree to provide a modest upgrade this offseason, inking Bryant would give the team the trash-talking No. 1 wideout its lacked since Steve Smith’s retirement. With about $9 million in cap space, the Ravens could make it happen.
Plus, Baltimore fans and pundits alike really, really want Bryant.
Dear @DezBryant,— Baltimore Beatdown (@BMoreBeatdown) April 13, 2018
You were once a clear pick for the Ravens, but Dallas traded up and stole you from the purple & black. You're now free to sign wherever, and while other teams may be more enticing, Charm City would go nuts as you #ThrowUpTheX
Please, come to Baltimore.
Baltimore is trying to figure out a way to retroactively fail Michael Crabtree's physical. https://t.co/RJ8RjczCs4— PatrickJudis (@PatrickJudis) April 13, 2018
But Baltimore may be better off searching out a cheaper option who fills their need in the slot rather than a player whose skillset duplicates much of what Crabtree brings to the table. Saints restricted free agent Willie Snead might be the safer play.
Signing Bryant would suggest one of two moves for the Giants:
a) a load-em-up approach to what may be Eli Manning’s final year by combining Bryant with Odell Beckham Jr., a hopefully revitalized Brandon Marshall, and electric second-year tight end Evan Engram or
b) a short-term insurance policy that allows the team to further explore trading Beckham.
Either way, Bryant would get to play the Cowboys twice, but that second option suggests he’d be languishing with a bad New York team. Would he be willing to share the spotlight with OBJ if the Giants rostered both of them? Would he be willing to take a pay cut for a team with precious little cap space in 2018? The Giants don’t make a ton of sense for Bryant outside of revenge factors (same with the Eagles), but there are reasons to believe it could happen.
It may even be Bryant’s top choice, according to Mike Fisher of 105.3 The FAN in Dallas.
Carolina is currently strapped for cash, but releasing Thomas Davis would help create the space needed to sign Bryant. The veteran wideout would find a soft landing spot on a playoff team — something the previous four teams can’t offer — and give Cam Newton the most established receiver he’s had since Steve Smith roamed the sidelines in Charlotte. Combining Bryant and the emerging Devin Funchess would add an extra gear to the Panthers’ offense, but the financials may mean the pairing is impossible.
While the Saints shifted away from their pass-heavy offense to great success last fall, they’ve still got Drew Brees behind center and need to glean every drop of his Hall of Fame play while they still can. Adding Bryant to a corps that includes Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. would make Brees extremely happy, even if the former Cowboy would be tricky to squeeze into the team’s cap.
It looks like head coach Sean Payton is already working on it, if his latest Twitter follow is any indication.