Dez Bryant has been released by the Dallas Cowboys Friday, ending an eight-year tenure with the team that concluded with a very disappointing 2017 season and months of offseason speculation on his future. The former superstar put up the worst numbers he has in a full season since he was a rookie in 2010, and after a year of temper tantrums and finger pointing, the team simply decided it had enough. They chose to move on from Bryant and recoup $8.5 million in cap space they can now use on players that they assume will produce more and better fit the team’s culture.
Bryant has been very vocal about the entire process, particularly as his release grew more and more imminent in recent days. On Thursday, he went on a Twitter barrage criticizing the media for his treatment and interacting with fans. On Friday, after the news was released, his response was much simpler. Along with two hashtags (#unbothered and #ThrowUpTheX), he offered only four words on Twitter: “let’s start the process.” The process is his new free agency, and even in his diminished state, Bryant should command a hefty contract.
Free agent contracts for wide receivers tend to be enormous. Sammy Watkins, for instance, has never caught more than the 69 passes that Bryant did last season. He got $16 million per year from the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Cowboys themselves tried to sign Watkins at a similar price. Six wide receivers in total got deals with a higher annual average value than the $8 million in dead money that the Cowboys are left with after moving on from Bryant. Teams are desperate for wide receivers, and Bryant is by far the best one that is still available. Every team with cap space is going to come after him, and some are going to release or restructure existing players to join the fray.
Bryant will have no trouble finding a suitable new team, but that doesn’t mean fans will be happy to see him go. He was a staple on the offense for eight years, and Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News caught this video of Bryant leaving The Star after the meeting that has a hefty feeling of finality to it. This is the end of an era.
The Cowboys are likely to use a high draft pick later this month on a wide receiver, someone who can be the long-term replacement for Bryant as the team’s No. 1 receiver, but he will have big shoes to fill from the moment he arrives on the team. Bryant may not be the player he once was, but he was still a valuable wide receiver who demanded attention from the best cornerbacks in football last season. He will be missed by the team and fans alike.