Speaking ahead of the NFL Combine, Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones provided a series of non committal answers in response to questions about Dez Bryant's future.
Bryant is due $16.5 million in 2018 and is a serious contender to be cut due to his steadily declining production and off field antics. The Cowboys can save $8.5 million by releasing the former All Pro wideout and Jones provided no assurances over his future on Tuesday.
The 2012 first round pick out of Oklahoma State has flashed brilliance in his enigmatic career, but his production has dropped off drastically in recent seasons. Last year Bryant finished with just 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns, despite playing all 16 games. He has failed to top 1,000 receiving yards since 2014 and will turn 30 during the 2018 season.
On the matter of meeting with Bryant Jones said there was no meeting scheduled with Dez or his agent but the that conversation will happen in the near future.
He noted the Cowboys must "determine what is in the best interest of our business".
Bryant clearly doesn't get the hesitation on the Cowboys' end and made it clear he wants to remain in Dallas during an appearance on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas on Friday:
"I just think it's crazy," Bryant said. "I'll be straight up honest. I think everything I've got, I deserve it. And I can get into way more details with that, but I'll leave that up to when it's time for me to sit down and talk with the Joneses – whenever that is."
He doubled down on his position on the 'Ben & Skin Show'. saying:
"I'm still working. I'm still grinding," Bryant said. "I feel like I'm grinding more than ever because of me, not because of nobody else...
"I let a lot of things get in the way that should have never got in the way. I'm ready to make my mark. I don't care what nobody is talking about, I couldn't care less. Everybody that ain't with Dez Bryant, they can kiss my a--."
A typically brash response from the always entertaining receiver, but one that doesn't seem to align with common consensus without the Cowboys organisation, or around the league.
Bryant simply hasn't lived up to the hype that came with the five-year, $70 million contract he signed back in 2015. His numbers are those of an average NFL receiver, yet he is being paid like a top tier one and will seemingly refuse to be paid like anything less.
In 2017, the 29-year-old ranked 54th in yards per reception (12.1), tied 24th in receptions (69), 28th in receiving yards (838), and tied 26th in receiving touchdowns with six. Yet only six receivers earned more money than Bryant in 2017.
Additionally, he has also reportedly struggled to co-exist with the Cowboys young franchise QB Dak Prescott. It may have been worth tolerating his diva behavior when he was operating as one of the league's elite pass catchers, but the Cowboys could be done with him at this point.
According to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, there are few teams in the league that still consider him a top talent at the position.
"Consider the phrases some teams used with me to describe him: "possession receiver," "lost a step," "second or third option." He's viewed by some teams as a rapidly declining talent, and many wonder if he can be a great receiver again." Freeman wrote.
Stephen Jones even called Bryant 'a distraction' when speaking to the Dallas Morning News back in January:
"It is certainly visible to anyone who watches our games, watches our sideline, is Dez is certainly a fiery guy who plays with a lot of emotion both on and off the field," he said.
"Sometimes that can be a distraction. It can be a distraction for Dez, it can be a distraction for other teammates."
Bryant certainly seems determined to come back better than ever, and the league knows how good he can be at his best. But, physically, he was way off that last season as he visibly struggled to create separation down the field and struggled with drops.
Jones' reluctance to publicly back his player hints at a big decision coming over Bryant's future.
Speaking to NFL Network's Jane Slater on Tuesday in Indianapolis, Jones said the following when asked about Dez's future:
"Nobody respects Dez more than I do...we just have to continue to work on our end see where we end up on it"
Slater then asked Stephen about Bryant's close-knit relationship with his brother Jerry, to which he responded by hinting that a difficult decision might have to be made much like those they have made with past Cowboys greats:
"That's the way Jerry is, it's the way I am and you do get attached to these men." he said.
"When these times come, whether its Troy (Aikman), Emmitt (Smith), Michael (Irving) you know when that time finally gets there it's a difficult decision...you've seen the press conferences when [they] retire it's a lot of emotion and not to say is at that point but all these decisions are very difficult especially with great players who have done so much for our organisation".
Jones' comments do suggest the Cowboys could be about to bring an end to the Dez Bryant era in Dallas, though nothing is confirmed.
It would be strange to see Dez in another uniform, but it's a realisation he may have to face sooner rather than later.News Now - Sport News