Bryant could be a big free agent catch
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.
Dez Bryant, released Friday by the Cowboys, has the size to still pose matchup problems for many cornerbacks in the NFL.