His contract and his production were not on the same level. Since his All-Pro 2014 season, he has fallen off.
In 2015 he appeared in nine games finishing in 31 catches for 401 yards and three touchdowns. In 2016 he appeared in 13 games finishing with 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. This past season he appeared in all 16 games finishing with 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns.
Looking at the stats from 2016-2017 it appears he made improvements. However what the average stat line doesn’t show is targets, the number of times a pass was thrown his way. In 2016 Bryant was targeted 96 times and finished with 50 catches. Last season he was targeted 132 times and finished with 69 catches. Compare that to the 2012 season that saw him targeted 138 times finishing with 92 catches and his 2014 season that saw him targeted 136 times finishing with 88 catches.
There is also a physical decline. He wasn’t getting open as much. He lost a step. He’s had a hard time separating consistently. All of which is concerning for a teams number one receiver. All of which is concerning for a man you’re paying $70 million to. Cutting Bryant saves the Cowboys $8 million this season which can be put to good use in contract negotiations with Pro-Bowl guard Zach Martin. The release, however, puts the Cowboys in a bind.
The timing of this decision was poor in my opinion. They waited until the big-name free-agent receivers signed elsewhere. The current receiving core lacks a go-to guy. Terrance Williams is a number two receiver at best proven by his inability to step up during the 2015 season when Bryant was out. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are both slot guys and while the New England Patriots proved you can have a slot receiver as your go-to guy I don’t see either of the two providing that. Bryce Butler left for a three year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Noah Brown was a nice find in the sixth round last year and did well in the reps he got. None are the answer.
That leaves the Cowboys with one option: the draft. The Cowboys currently hold the nineteenth overall pick. While they could pick a receiver there, the two best receivers may already be off the board. SMU’s Courtland Sutton is a big 6’3 215lbs receiver who has a good blend of speed and physicality. However, he is projected to be a top 15 pick. The other receiver with a first-round grade is Alabama’s, Calvin Ridley. At 6’0 195lbs Ridley lacks the ideal size to be a number one receiver but so does Pittsburgh Steeler star Antonio Brown. He is a polished route runner with great speed and hands but like Sutton might be off the board. The Cowboys next move will be critical to the team’s success this season.
Bryant had a great eight-year run. He finished his Cowboy career playing in 113 games making 99 starts hauling in 531 catches for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns. Hopefully one day he will return and retire a Cowboy. Sadly all good things must come to an in. Dez Bryant career as a Dallas Cowboy has come to an end.