Bryant could be a big free agent catch

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - SPORTS - Nate Davis

Dez Bryant’s re­lease from the Cow­boys on Fri­day im­me­di­ately makes him the NFL’s most com­pelling free agent.

He might not be what he once was, with a 30th birth­day ap­proach­ing and a sup­ply of what was al­ways lim­ited burst ebbing away. But Bryant’s 6-2, 220pound frame still makes him a mis­match for many of the league’s cor­ners. If he’s still se­ri­ous about ex­pand­ing his route tree — and able to ac­com­plish that goal in a lim­ited pe­riod of time — it could also boost his value. But per­haps rekin­dled fire for a proud player — one who didn’t want to leave Dal­las but has also been hear­ing a lot about his di­min­ished pro­duc­tion in re­cent years — might re­ally make him at­trac­tive to po­ten­tial suit­ors in need of a pass­ing game spark.

These could be the best land­ing spots for Bryant:

1. Jaguars: Per­haps the best op­por­tu­nity to both win and reprise his role as the No. 1 re­ceiver Jack­sonville lacks. Bryant’s per­sona should fit a team that ex­udes swag­ger. And his catch ra­dius would surely be wel­come by QB Blake Bor­tles, whose throws oc­ca­sion­ally need a large mar­gin for er­ror. Bryant’s not go­ing to snag 100 balls on a team built to run and play de­fense, but he could notch his first 1,000-yard sea­son since 2014 and go back to be­ing a dou­ble-fig­ure TD guy. Bonuses: The Jags will visit the Cow­boys this year in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and No. 88 is avail­able after Allen Hurns es­sen­tially re­placed Bryant in Big D.

2. Tex­ans: They have plenty of left­over cap space. They play two hours from Bryant’s home­town of Lufkin, Texas. He would en­joy sin­gle cov­er­age op­po­site star DeAn­dre Hop­kins and might find play­ing with De­shaun Wat­son is more to his lik­ing after strug­gling to find chem­istry with Dak Prescott in Dal­las. The Tex­ans also play the Cow­boys in 2018 but will do so in Hous­ton.

3. 49ers: A team on the rise un­der new QB Jimmy Garop­polo and cer­tainly able to make a nice fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to Bryant. He’s no Julio Jones at this point, but this of­fense ca­pa­bly feeds all types, in­clud­ing big-bod­ied tar­gets as ev­i­denced by what coach Kyle Shana­han did dur­ing his two sea­sons in At­lanta. The Nin­ers haven’t had a 1,000yard re­ceiver since 2014, and Bryant would nicely com­ple­ment speed­ster Mar­quise Good­win.

4. Vik­ings: They’re clearly go­ing for it in 2018 and could prob­a­bly use one more as­set for new QB Kirk Cousins. Bryant would find him­self shar­ing tar­gets with Ste­fon Diggs, Adam Thie­len, Kyle Ru­dolph and even Dalvin Cook. But there would be a niche for him given Laquon Tread­well’s in­abil­ity to de­velop into a pos­ses­sion re­ceiver or red-zone threat.

5. Red­skins: De­pend­ing on how hard Bryant is tak­ing his sud­den un­em­ploy­ment (and he says it’s “very per­sonal”), he might covet the op­por­tu­nity to stay in the NFC East and mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to face Jerry Jones and his for­mer team. Nei­ther the Ea­gles nor Gi­ants have the need (or cap space) for an ag­ing, lim­ited player. The Red­skins, never afraid to pur­sue a big name, are a dif­fer­ent case. They squir­reled away ex­tra spend­ing money and could still find a sig­nif­i­cant role for Bryant in their newlook of­fense.

6. Pa­tri­ots: If Bryant’s will­ing to take less than top dol­lar and go to a team that likely won’t res­tore him to his glory days, then New Eng­land might be a con­sid­er­a­tion. At least he’d get a shot to com­pete for a ring while know­ing Tom Brady and co­or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels would max­i­mize the things he does best rather than rely on him to ex­pand his reper­toire.

7. Pan­thers: Good team. Good quar­ter­back. New co­or­di­na­tor (Norv Turner) who once mas­ter­fully lever­aged Bryant fore­run­ner Michael Irvin in Dal­las. Maybe?

8. Rams: They have about five dol­lars left un­der the cap (though that’s hardly the case in 2019, so a back­loaded deal would be an op­tion). But they also don’t re­ally have a weapon such as Bryant in their arse­nal. Lastly, this off­sea­son has been a les­son in never dis­count­ing the Rams as a po­ten­tial buyer.

SER­GIO ESTRADA/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Dez Bryant, re­leased Fri­day by the Cow­boys, has the size to still pose matchup prob­lems for many cor­ner­backs in the NFL.

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