Franchise Player

I’ve flown a lot in my life, but every time I get on a plane I worry–just a bit. I know the odds, that air travel is much safer than other modes of transportation. I’m aware that, statistically, I’m in the home stretch when I arrive at the airport alive. Even knowing the odds, I still panic a small amount. It’s because of the risk involved. If I’m on the statistically unlikely (but not impossible, mind you) side of the equation, I’m dead. There isn’t a ton of gray area there.

I’m not sure if losing Dez Bryant to another team would be worse than dying in a plane crash. It might involve just as much pain for my heart, that’s for sure. And, even knowing that the odds are heavily in favor of it all working out okay and both sides walking away with life and limb intact, I worry. I hadn’t realized that the Cowboys were using the non-exclusive franchise tag on Bryant. The exclusive tag would tack on an extra million dollars to Bryant’s 2015 cap number (if my math is right), but would preclude him from negotiating with other teams. The non-exclusive franchise tag lacks the extra million removed from the Cowboys’ salary cap, but allows Bryant to seek a deal with another team. If another team offers him a deal, the Cowboys have five days to match, and if they do not, Dallas receives that team’s first round pick in the next two drafts. This freaks me out because two first round picks is a lot of NFL currency. They’re essentially cash that can be turned into players available at those picks, traded to get a high value free agent, or traded in a package to obtain one of the highest picks in the draft. Those two picks are essentially stacks of cash with Roger Goodell’s face on them.

Would it be worth it to let Dez wear another jersey? It’s tough for me to answer. Those two first round picks can really help the team, and maybe allow them to upgrade enough at the right positions to enable Dallas to win games in spite of lacking an All World receiver. Maybe, in that infusion of young (and cheap, Jerry would remind you) talent is Dez Bryant’s successor. Maybe Calvin Johnson was cloned years ago, and wants to declare for the draft early. That extra first round pick can get you that young superstar. Or one of those picks could be for Tony Romo’s apprentice, the signal caller finally talented enough to take over the team without years of mediocrity in between the two. That sounds really appealing to me.

But, no one knows what those picks will translate into. Will McClay has done a heck of a job running the past few drafts, and was even able to let Jerry Jones accept his Executive of the Year honor in his place, but no pick is a sure thing. I would have bet a pretty penny on Jedeveon Clowney being an absolute beast in 2014. I was driving that bus hard. Now, I don’t even bother googling to make sure I spelled his name right. Even if Dallas used the extra 2015 pick to obtain the Greatest Quarterback To Ever Put On A Helmet, there’s no guarantee that he would live up to expectations. Just like the team would have options of what to do with those picks, we don’t know what that might end up looking like. We all know what it looks like when Dez scores a touchdown. The crowd is cheering, that dove comes down and sits on his shoulder, and the loud voice from above acknowledges that that’s another Dallas Cowboys touchdown brought to you by Miller Lite and number 88. And in him, we are all well pleased.

We know what Dez can do on the field (and, if we squint just right at that grainy footage, off it as well), we have no idea what that kid coming out of college can do. Romo doesn’t have time to wait, even if he knew that the receiver drafted was going to be Dez Bryant, it takes time. Seasons that Romo’s back just doesn’t have.

My heart says that it’s not worth sacrificing my favorite Cowboy to watch for two extra first round picks, and my brain comes around to the idea.

I worry about Dez handling not being happy without a long term deal, if it comes to that when the season starts. Will he show up to training camp? Will he sit out of games? If he does come to camp and dress for games, will he be the same tenacious receiver that we know and defend? I can’t say. No one can, unless you know the guy. I know that I wouldn’t care about next year’s salary if you wanted to give me twelve million today. That’s a problem for future-Ryan to handle. But, football players live a different life, and don’t make much money–if any–after 30. It would be very understandable for him to not be as eager to catch that crossing route across the middle when Seattle comes to Arlington. He might say the right things in interviews. Anyone who says that they know how he’ll react, is lying. We won’t know for sure until/if the situation arises.

Cole Beasley getting a new contract today might affect Bryant’s outlook on things. Ideally his agent, Tom Condon, would have been aware that this was happening, and was able to give him a heads up weeks ago. I think he understands the difference between negotiating a contract with him and Beasley, but he probably won’t be watching ESPN today. The signing that would be worrisome is Demarco Murray. Aside from the fact that I think Dallas should absolutely let him test the market before offering him anything, signing a player at a less valuable football position than his would send a bad message to Bryant. He knows how much easier it is to replace a runningback like Murray than a receiver like him. If things aren’t already acrimonious, that might complete the transition.

Ultimately, I think my fears are for naught. I don’t see Cowboys fans dying in a fiery plane crash of Dez Departure. But, what does an emergency landing look like?

I don’t think I can just pop a Xanax for six months.

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