INDIANAPOLIS — Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was noncommittal at the scouting combine Wednesday on whether the team would like to have star WR Dez Bryant back in 2018.
Garrett professed his love for Bryant, the franchise's all-time leader in receiving touchdowns, whom the Cowboys have stood by during good times and bad since selecting the mercurial playmaker 24th overall in 2010. But after three consecutive disappointing seasons, and with Bryant set to absorb $16.5 million of the club's 2018 cap, increasing signals point to him being approached about taking a pay cut, if not outright released.
"We have a tremendous amount of love for Dez Bryant as an organization," said Garrett. He's made so many contributions to our team. I personally have a lot of love for him as a player and more so as a person. The growth and development he's made over his career with us has been exponential and, again, has made a huge impact on our team. I don't know the specifics of that interview. I do know our feelings about him — he's been a great player for us for a long time."
The interview to which Garrett referred was from Friday, when the always-emotional Bryant appeared on 105.3 The Fan and said, among other things, that talk of him taking a pay cut is "crazy" and anyone who's against him can "kiss my a*s."
Bryant also admitted injuries again contributed to his declining production, in addition to his inability to properly deal with distractions — and there were even more than usual in Dallas a year ago.
Yet, as much as Garrett said the Cowboys appreciate Bryant's contributions and growth from an immature player coming from Oklahoma State to a player some of his peers look up to and, from 2012-14 the NFL's premier touchdown-scoring wideout, this was the head coach's response when asked directly whether he shared Bryant's desire to have the wideout back in Dallas.
"We haven't had any specific personnel meetings about any of our players. We had a wrap-up meeting at the end of this season almost reviewing what happened last year, and we'll have some more meetings starting this week and then once we get back to Dallas about the specific roles for each of our players moving forward.
Garrett essentially punting on the question comes just more than a month after Cowboys VP of football Stephen Jones admitted the distractions that accompany Bryant can be problematic and the receiver "knows when you get paid that kind of money, there's high expectations in terms of the productivity."
The productivity hasn't been up to Bryant's lofty standards — a career-low 12.1 yards per catch in 2017, his first full season in three years, when he struggled to click with Dak Prescott. But would the Cowboys move on from Bryant without a clear contingency plan? Their offense badly lacks playmakers in the passing game and Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley were as much or more disappointing than Bryant a year ago.
But Jerry Jones has been Bryant's biggest advocate and will have the final say on Bryant's future, and although the draft features excellent WR depth on Days 2 and 3, there doesn't appear to be a guy who could reasonably be asked to come in and quickly fill Bryant's shoes. With Prescott coming off a tough sophomore season, it'd be nothing if not risky to move on from his best weapon, even one in decline, without a clear contingency plan.