Dez Bryant is on the market. The Cowboys don’t think he’s worth $12.5 million, so they’re releasing him.
That makes sense. Bryant is 29, but he seems more like he’s about 33. He’s definitely lost speed, making it hard to him to consistently get separation. He’s finished under 900 receiving yards three years in a row.
Bryant is a big, physical receiver, so perhaps his body has worn down and minor injuries have taken a toll. Or maybe he lost some drive after signing a five-year contract worth $70 million. Prior to signing that deal in 2015, had finished with at least 88 catches, 1,233 yards and 12 TDs three years in a row. If getting kicked the curb lights a fire under Bryant, causing him to maybe train harder and lose weight, then some team could be getting a steal.
The Cowboys were kind of backed into a corner on this. Bryant simply hasn’t been good enough. Over the last three years, 63 wide receivers have seen at least 200 passes thrown their way. Bryant is the only player in that group who hasn’t caught more than half of his targets.
If you want to instead look not at catch rates but average yards per pass play, then he slips ahead of a few lesser receivers – Tavon Austin, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Kamar Aiken. (Crabtree is very much like Bryant – a formerly good wide receiver who can’t get separation anymore.)
|WIDE RECEIVER CATCH RATES, 2015-17|
|Danny Amendola, N.E.||202||149||1,550||10.4||9||73.8%|
|Michael Thomas, N.O.||270||196||2,382||12.2||14||72.6%|
|Doug Baldwin, Sea.||344||247||3,188||12.9||29||71.8%|
|Golden Tate, Det.||383||273||2,893||10.6||15||71.3%|
|Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.||456||325||3,394||10.4||21||71.3%|
|Mohamed Sanu, tms||226||159||1,750||11.0||9||70.4%|
|Adam Humphries, T.B.||206||143||1,513||10.6||4||69.4%|
|Cole Beasley, Dall.||236||163||1,683||10.3||14||69.1%|
|Jarvis Landry, Mia.||458||316||3,280||10.4||17||69.0%|
|Stefon Diggs, Minn.||291||200||2,472||12.4||15||68.7%|
|Keenan Allen, LAC||255||175||2,181||12.5||10||68.6%|
|Jamison Crowder, Wash.||280||192||2,240||11.7||12||68.6%|
|Adam Thielen, Minn.||252||172||2,387||13.9||9||68.3%|
|Willie Snead, N.O.||221||149||1,971||13.2||7||67.4%|
|Antonio Brown, Pitt.||510||343||4,651||13.6||31||67.3%|
|Randall Cobb, G.B.||305||205||2,092||10.2||14||67.2%|
|Tyler Lockett, Sea.||206||137||1,816||13.3||9||66.5%|
|•Anquan Boldin, tms||206||136||1,373||10.1||12||66.0%|
|Jordan Matthews, tms||279||183||2,083||11.4||12||65.6%|
|Pierre Garcon, tms||292||191||2,318||12.1||9||65.4%|
|Julian Edelman, N.E.||247||159||1,798||11.3||10||64.4%|
|Terrance Williams, Dall.||232||149||2,002||13.4||7||64.2%|
|Julio Jones, Atl.||480||307||4,724||15.4||17||64.0%|
|Robert Woods, tms||241||154||1,946||12.6||9||63.9%|
|Brandin Cooks, tms||360||227||3,393||14.9||24||63.1%|
|Rishard Matthews, tms||256||161||2,402||14.9||17||62.9%|
|Jeremy Maclin, tms||272||171||2,064||12.1||13||62.9%|
|Jordy Nelson, G.B.||240||150||1,739||11.6||20||62.5%|
|Eric Decker, tms||236||143||1,784||12.5||15||60.6%|
|A.J. Green, Cin.||375||227||3,339||14.7||22||60.5%|
|Odell Beckham, NYG||368||222||3,119||14.0||26||60.3%|
|Demaryius Thomas, Den.||461||278||3,336||12.0||16||60.3%|
|Davante Adams, G.B.||332||199||2,365||11.9||23||59.9%|
|Jermaine Kearse, tms||259||155||2,005||12.9||11||59.8%|
|DeVante Parker, Mia.||233||139||1,908||13.7||8||59.7%|
|•Michael Crabtree, Oak.||392||232||2,543||11.0||25||59.2%|
|Sammy Watkins, tms||218||127||2,070||16.3||19||58.3%|
|Allen Hurns, Jac.||237||138||1,992||14.4||15||58.2%|
|Mike Wallace, tms||280||163||2,238||13.7||10||58.2%|
|Nelson Agholor, Phil.||208||121||1,416||11.7||11||58.2%|
|Dontrelle Inman, tms||204||118||1,639||13.9||8||57.8%|
|Marvin Jones, tms||313||181||2,847||15.7||17||57.8%|
|Donte Moncrief, Ind.||208||120||1,431||11.9||15||57.7%|
|Ted Ginn, tms||262||151||2,278||15.1||18||57.6%|
|Marqise Lee, Jac.||233||134||1,744||13.0||7||57.5%|
|•Tavon Austin, LAR||215||123||1,029||8.4||8||57.2%|
|DeSean Jackson, tms||239||136||2,201||16.2||11||56.9%|
|Travis Benjamin, tms||262||149||2,210||14.8||13||56.9%|
|Amari Cooper, Oak.||358||203||2,903||14.3||18||56.7%|
|Brandon LaFell, tms||270||153||1,925||12.6||9||56.7%|
|Brandon Marshall, tms||334||186||2,444||13.1||17||55.7%|
|Emmanuel Sanders, Den.||365||202||2,722||13.5||13||55.3%|
|DeAndre Hopkins, Hou.||517||285||3,853||13.5||28||55.1%|
|Kenny Britt, tms||226||124||1,939||15.6||10||54.9%|
|John Brown, Ariz.||229||125||1,819||14.6||12||54.6%|
|T.Y. Hilton, Ind.||398||217||3,538||16.3||15||54.5%|
|•Kamar Aiken, tms||221||119||1,405||11.8||6||53.8%|
|Alshon Jeffery, tms||308||163||2,417||14.8||15||52.9%|
|Mike Evans, T.B.||457||241||3,528||14.6||20||52.7%|
|Kenny Stills, Mia.||249||127||2,013||15.9||18||51.0%|
|Allen Robinson, Jac.||303||154||2,300||14.9||20||50.8%|
|Devin Funchess, Car.||232||117||1,684||14.4||17||50.4%|
|Dez Bryant, Dall.||300||150||2,035||13.6||17||50.0%|
Wherever Bryant signs, he’ll be making less than $12 million. Probably more like $8 million. But no doubt some teams will teams will want to kick the tires, gauging whether there’s any chance he might play more like he did back in 2014. I see four possible destinations.
Buffalo: The Bills definitely need a wide receiver. That’s why I’m putting them on the list. But I don’t see much chance of it happening. I don’t think Bryant would be willing to play there, and I don’t think they’d be interested in dealing with him. I don’t think he’s their kind of guy.
Indianapolis: Colts could use a big body to line up opposite T.Y. Hilton. Donte Moncrief filled that role last year but underwhelmed and is now with Jacksonville. A possibility.
San Francisco: The 49ers have a good speed receiver who can make some plays downfield (Marquise Goodwin). But they’ve got 32-year-old Pierre Garcon on the other side. I would imagine right now that they’re probably wondering how much of an upgrade Bryant would be over Garcon. Or is he even an upgrade at all? If they’re getting the receiver Bryant has been the past few years, they would stick with Garcon. Garcon knows the offense better. But maybe.
Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald is coming back for another year. J.J. Nelson and Brice Butler are deep threats. Maybe Chad Williams (a third-round pick a year ago) develops. There could be some interest. But Bryant would be an odd fit with Fitzgerald – two older, slower receivers without any ability to challenge defenses deep. Unlikely.