The Dallas Cowboys have made their first big decision of free agency and hit Dez Bryant with the franchise tag. The Cowboys will use a non exclusive tag on the star wide receiver. This basically means another team can make an offer to Bryant but the Cowboys can match it if they choose to do so. If the Cowboys do not choose to match the offer, the interested team will have to give up two first-round picks to sign Bryant.
The Cowboys have always intended that the franchise tag is a short term solution as they attempt to work out a deal to make Bryant a Cowboy for life. Bryant's first agent had him close to a multi-year deal with the Cowboys early in the 2014 season, but Bryant didn't want to sell himself short with his first deal following his rookie contract and decided to find new representation. With his new agents Tom Condon (CAA) and Kim Miale (Roc Nation) talks have come to a stand still. The delay in a new contract is most likely due to the Cowboys having their first meeting with Bryant's new agents last Tuesday.
If anything, this symbolizes the Cowboys' desire to negotiate, which will benefit both parties. Why rush? The fact is that the NFL is not the NBA, there are not a few good wide receivers, there are a lot. Most of them are not in Bryant's elite class, but this doesn't mean his production's irreplaceable. Bryant had a breakout season which cemented him as one of the best wide receivers in the game. With that being said, the Cowboys have learned the hard way about over paying for players especially when there are so many positions of need to address. Even if a team were to offer something for Bryant around March 7th, what specific dangers would the Cowboys likely face?
Hypothetically, with Bryant gone, two additional first round draft picks and a whole bunch of cap space, the Cowboys could potentially become big contenders in free agency and the draft. The Cowboys could also see DeMarco Murray leave in free agency. They'd be losing one of the NFL's best running backs but the Cowboys would have more than enough money and flexibility to make an offer to Adrian Peterson or the more likely scenario sign Mark Ingram and draft either Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, or Ameer Abdullah. That option would not only be cheaper, but also allow the Cowboys to pursue first-round pass rushers and linebackers hitting free agency. The Cowboys could draft a running back, a defensive lineman, and a wide receiver with three first-round picks.
The Cowboys would obviously like to keep Bryant and Murray but they're following the plan that got them to the playoffs -- spend money on the positions of need. In hindsight, letting Demarcus Ware leave in free agency could have been blessing in disguise. Yes this may all seem petty but in two years when the Cowboys have to resign Travis Fredrick and Zack Martin it would be wise to have money available for them considering their offensive line is currently the heart and soul of this team.
The questions at cornerback are even worse. That's a position that could use a gigantic upgrade. The Cowboys are being cautious but not because of Bryant's supposed off the field issues. It's a philosophy and cap space issue. The NFLPA even stated that the Cowboys need to spend more on players, the question remains are they willing to spend more for these two players or the entire team.