NFL

NFL AM: The Latest Twists in the Dez Bryant Saga

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Bryant’s Big Threat

The Cowboys and Dez Bryant have exactly one month to hammer out a long-term extension before the deadline for all franchise-tagged players. At this point, an ugly standoff appears more likely than a new contract.

The drama began last week, when ESPN reported that Bryant was mulling “pulling an Emmitt Smith,” referring to the all-time rushing champion who sat out the first two games of the 1993 season during a contract dispute. The Cowboys started 0-2 that season before caving in and giving Smith a favorable extension. Dallas rallied to win the Super Bowl that season, making the deal a win-win for both parties.

Unfortunately, Bryant’s story cannot have a similar happy ending. If Bryant is not signed to a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, his only options are to play under his franchise agreement (a one-year, $12.823 million deal) or not play at all.

Because of that, it doesn’t seem like Bryant has much to gain by sitting out. Nonetheless, the receiver confirmed to the NFL Network that he is indeed considering this strategy.

“This is no rumor; it’s legit,” he said.

What could Bryant gain from this tactic? In the short-term, he hopes the threat of a holdout is enough to prompt the Cowboys to get moving on the contract front. Dallas has reportedly not submitted an updated contract proposal since prior to last season.

If Bryant is forced to play on a one-year deal, he could hold out until the Cowboys agree not to use the franchise tag on him again next season, assuring he can finally cash in on a multi-year contract with more guaranteed money.

“I’m just not going to comment about that,” said Tom Condon, who has been Bryant’s agent since November. “Our goal is still to get something done on a long-term basis by the deadline.”

Dallas executive vice president of player personnel Stephen Jones is singing a similar tune, saying the team will make a push to lock in a new deal before the deadline.

Part of the problem is agreeing upon a fair price. A framework for Bryant’s new contract could be put in place soon, as the Falcons are reportedly close to executing a massive contract extension with receiver Julio Jones. The Bengals are also trying to extend their own star receiver, A.J. Green, whose new deal could certainly provide another point of reference.

The tricky part is Bryant comes with far more off-the-field baggage than Jones or Green, ranging from a domestic violence charge against his mother to some demonstrative meltdowns on the sidelines (along with a few minor police encounters in between). Jones and Green do not require team-sponsored babysitters to track their every movement, either, which is another reason Bryant’s negotiations are more complicated.

Bryant started all 16 games last season, catching 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. If he follows though on this threat to sit out the first two games of next season, he would miss division contests against the Giants and Eagles.

Sam Steps Aside

Michael Sam has still not returned to the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes after leaving on the brink of the team’s first game due to “personal reasons.”

There is huge interest in how Sam performs in the CFL, as this is his likely last chance to prove he has what it takes to make it in the NFL. If Sam makes a living in opposing backfields, he will have a chance to get back to the NFL and follow the footsteps of Cameron Wake. If not, his football journey is almost certainly over.

First thing’s first: Sam needs to get on the field.

“This surprises me right now. I thought he would have been out here,” Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins said to the Montreal Gazette.

There is another source close to the Alouettes who feels Sam will be back soon. TSN’s voice of the Alouettes, Rick Moffat, recently went on Twitter to state he feels Sam will return in the near future. Moffat says Sam seemed like something else was on his mind, giving credence to the report Sam is dealing with personal issues at home. Additionally, Moffat pointed out that Sam did not leave with enough luggage to indicate his absence will be a lengthy one.

No matter the reason, Sam needs to get back to chasing quarterbacks rather than chasing headlines, or his football journey will reach an abrupt and premature conclusion.

Finals Doppelgangers

Football headlines were pushed to the back page over the weekend, as the news has been dominated by the NBA Finals. Game 5 took place on Sunday, with the Warriors earning a 104-91 victory to move within one victory of the championship.

It is easy to watch the stars of the NBA Finals and draw some comparisons with their NFL counterparts.

LeBron James plays the role of Tom Brady, the mega star everyone loves to hate. Matthew Dellavedova serves as the NBA’s  Danny Woohead, the scrappy player who overcomes the odds with grit and tenacity.

Over on the Golden State side, what Stephen Curry does on the hardwood is akin to what Antonio Brown does on the gridiron, capable of scoring from anywhere. Curry’s backcout mate, Klay Thompson, is the basketball version of J.J. Watt, taking over games on offense or defense.

There are parallels to be drawn along the sidelines, as well. David Blatt is a shoe-in for Mike McCarthy, as both coaches are in over their heads and riding the coattails of their respective superstars.

It even extends to the announcer’s table, where Jon Gruden and Jeff Van Gundy are kindred spirits. Both are former coaches who bring a unique insight to their commentary. They are also linked to damn near every coaching opening in their respective professions. Their family trees look similar, too, as both have brothers who are current head coaches of flailing franchises.

Let’s just hope if the Cavaliers are on the verge of winning Game 6, they are smart enough to just hand the ball to LeBron instead of trying to squeeze a pass inside to Tristan Thompson.

Want to talk more about these and other headlines? Join Michael Lombardo for his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … you can ask your question now


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.