It feels odd that the Cleveland Browns are toying with the idea of signing a 30-year-old Dez Bryant.
Bryant, it has been said, is holding out and positioning himself to land on a “contender.” If you are not new to following the Browns, then you know they have been heavily contending for No. 1 picks for as long as anyone can remember, not winning games. But that perception is changing, and maybe Bryant thinks he can be a big part of the Browns turnaround everyone seems to think is brewing in Berea.
That or he’s asking for a lot of money, which the Browns have to offer, or maybe a little bit of both can be true.
Bryant has, if nothing else, proven himself to be one of the 10 best receivers in the NFL during the span of his impressive seven-year career, all of them played in Dallas. Things have changed over the last three seasons, though, which ultimately resulted in his unceremonious release by the Cowboys this offseason.
Is he running out of gas? Is he trying to cash in one last time while people can still associate his talent level with the three consecutive 1,000-plus yard seasons he racked up—all with Tony Romo playing quarterback—from 2013 to 2015? These are very relevant questions, but not ones that are headlining the conversation about his potential fit in Cleveland.
Bryant’s fall from grace in Dallas, where he was allegedly a “locker room” instigator who demanded more involvement and targets from Dak Prescott—Dallas’ new, young, mobile, and not-Tony Romo replacement quarterback—is somewhat worrisome. But wanting the ball is hardly a crime, unless it runs against the interests of the team, then that’s where problems can start.
The Cowboys clearly wanted to move in a new direction after drafting Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, and then building one of the best offensive lines in football. For all of his strengths, Prescott is not Romo as a vertical passer. He is a fine young player, but Bryant’s skill-set was no longer as valuable to the team—although, it seems strange they no longer had use for a dominant red-zone receiver capable of winning numerous ways for touchdowns.
Bryant’s recent Twitterstorm revealed the problems in Dallas extended beyond Prescott, and his unhappiness created a divide that ultimately made it untenable to keep him there.
That brings us to today, where general manager John Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson have to decide if Bryant’s current talent level can justify the risk of him coming into to their refreshed locker room, getting along, and again being the player he’s capable of being.
Personally, I have heard from numerous Dallas beat writers who laud Bryant for his work ethic. He is a tireless worker, proud of what he has achieved, and wants to win championships. The biggest issue, as many know, is that he wants the ball more because he thinks that will help his team win. Because he believes in himself that much. If Bryant’s name was left out of that first sentence, it would sound like a perfect description for new Browns receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry has been a consummate professional since coming to Cleveland, and he has the young Browns believing their future has a different trajectory than the one win they have achieved over the last two seasons.
While the Browns may not be contenders per se, that perception is changing, and maybe Bryant will be a part of it.
But we have to go back to the question as to whether he will be a team player, or will he be a “me” player. Will he be content if Corey Coleman plays 30 percent of “his” snaps in a game if Todd Haley’s game plan calls for it? Will he create a divide in a blossoming locker room that has a group of young, talented players who are and have been putting in hard work?
These are valid concerns. These are the issues that are possibly holding up negotiations. Bryant is a very good player. He knows it. His coaches knew it. The Browns know it. But is he more interested in the team’s greater success, or in the Dez image?
No one knows what actually went down in Dallas. There are differing opinions on what Bryant allegedly did to be dismissed by the only NFL team he has ever played for. So the best we can do is wait to see what the Browns end up deciding, depending how they view his falling out from Dallas, and that is assuming he is even truly considering the team.
For my money—and it’s not, but the Browns have a ton of it available for moves like this—it seems like a great decision to bring Bryant in to give the team another veteran who has worked his tail off and found great success in the league. He is driven by that success, upset by his recent situation in Dallas, and has several good seasons left in the tank. Any younger player who watches Bryant prepare and perform on game days would be lucky to have that kind of leadership as they try to replicate that success in their own careers.