The Dallas Cowboys are not planning on cutting bait with wide receiver Dez Bryant, we’re told. But that doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about his recent performance and what the future holds.
Bryant and Dak Prescott simply have not been on the same page for too long now. Even with Prescott’s brilliant rookie season, they’ve not established the kind of rapport you’d expect from a receiver of his talent. In 28 games together now, Prescott has targeted Bryant 220 times with only 116 of those ending in completions — a success rate that barely exceeds 50 percent.
Bryant is set to carry a high salary-cap hit in 2018 ($16.5 million) and would cost $8 million in dead money to cut. We’re told that’s just not happening. One issue is that the Cowboys’ wide receiver talent, with the regressions of Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, just isn’t strong enough for the Cowboys to consider that too strongly.
But the Cowboys need more from Bryant next season. That’s not ignoring blame on Prescott, who has not played nearly as well as he did as a rookie. But Bryant’s mistakes in the Week 16 game that ended the Cowboys’ playoff hopes were too big to overlook. He dropped two passes in the game, one that resulted in a Seahawks interception and eventual touchdown, and a fumble that also led to a score.
Cowboys officials took note when Prescott took blame for that pick but also seemed to suggest that he needed to make his pass absolutely perfect so that Bryant couldn’t drop it. It was the clearest sign yet that the two players have not been on the same page and that if anything their on-field relationship is getting worse.
Having Ezekiel Elliott back for a full season and a return to full health of the Cowboys’ offensive line should help; so could adding some pieces to the passing game, which we expect to happen. The Cowboys might not be big players in free agency for a wideout, and we still don’t think they will overreach for one in the draft.
But with Bryant, who lacks clear separation ability, and Jason Witten earning nearly half of the Cowboys’ targets, something must change. We expect Witten’s passing-game role to be reduced, and Bryant could use some help.
It’s possible that Bryant, who turns 30 next season, could be entering his final year in Dallas. It makes more financial and football sense for the Cowboys to give him another shot in 2018. But after that? All bets are off.