@ZackMooreNFL Projects Dez Bryant’s Contract

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As of right now, Dez Bryant will be playing for the Cowboys on the $12.823 million franchise tag and would lose about $754,000 for each game he misses were he to hold out. After speaking with the great @Jason_OTC, the Wizard of OTC, he stated that it sounds like Bryant is looking for a deal worth $16 million per season and that his guess is that Bryant is looking for a deal worth $16 million per year, plus $50 million in guarantees, but he’s not sure on the length of the contract.

According to Todd Archer at ESPN, Tom Condon and Kim Miele from Roc Nation Sports are handling Bryant’s negotiation with the Cowboys, so he’s in good hands as Condon is one of the best in the league and a hero of mine as an aspiring NFL agent. This isn’t the first time that I’ve discussed what I thought Condon should do with a contract as I stated in The Manning vs. Brady Debate article from February 2015 that Manning should take a lower salary to give the Broncos a better chance to win a Super Bowl and for him to go out with another ring. Condon and Manning made me look good by doing that and taking a lower cap number with AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl incentives. Rather than have a $21.5 million cap hit in 2015 with a debilitating 15.01% cap percentage, he’ll have a $17.5 million cap hit, which is a more manageable 12.21% and is in the neighborhood of what one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL should be paid. As you’ll see in #Caponomics, I’m a believer that, especially with the rapid growth of the salary cap that’s coming in the next few years, the top of the quarterback market should be around 12% of the salary cap as when you get into the 14-15% range, it really restricts your ability to construct a balanced roster.

The Cowboys and Bryant had been working on a deal all the way back to last summer and as Archer puts it, “they thought they were close to a deal in the middle of last season when things feel apart” and that was what led to Bryant going to Roc Nation Sports. Archer points out that they only have two days to get the deal done or Bryant will have to play the season out on the franchise tag.

Admittedly, this area of the salary cap is not my forte, I’m much more interested in analyzing the numbers that teams end up with and I know that the details and rules are something that I will learn on the job as an agent as I study the CBA and my career gets started. Here are a few of Jason’s tweets on the subject:

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 4.48.35 PM

(The 15th meaning July 15th)

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Bryant will be turning 27 on November 4, 2015, so I completely understand his desire to get a long-term deal done before the season. While $12.823 million is a lot of money and if he were to be franchised again in 2016, the 120% increase in his salary would mean he’ll be paid $15,387,600 on the franchise tag next season, which would make this a two-year deal worth $28,210,600. If Bryant were to play out these two seasons, play well and then be an unrestricted free agent in 2017, then he could still get a pretty sizeable deal before his 29-year-old season, but I don’t think he wants to risk injury or perceived decrease in performance.

Understandably, Bryant feels he has proven himself with an average of 91 catches for 1312 yards (14.4 ypc) and 13.7 touchdowns over the last three seasons and he wants some long-term security. He rightfully believes that he’s done enough in his rookie deal to deserve that and he’s right to believe that, but if he is really looking for a deal within the $16 million per year range, then he’s just not going to get that from the Cowboys. As the Cowboys proved this offseason with Demarco Murray, they were much more fiscally prudent than they have been in past years as they had a contract figure that they valued Murray at and did not move past that even with divisional rival Philadelphia moving in to sign him.

Something that I explored in April was the idea that the wide receiver market’s bubble has burst and that we won’t see contracts like the ones given to Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald for a long time. As I wrote then, “on an average per year basis, Calvin Johnson’s contract is worth $16,207,143, Mike Wallace’s is $12 million, Vincent Jackson is $11,111,111 and Larry Fitzgerald’s is $11 million.” For the time that they were signed, those per year averages were very out of line in regards to the salary cap at the time, which is why Johnson, Wallace and Fitzgerald were Jason’s three worst wide receiver contracts in 2015, which he released this weekend.

I explained in the article from April that the bubble’s burst was on display during this 2015 offseason as the three highest contracts signed by Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb and Torrey Smith were worth $11, $10 and $8 million per year. Considering the difference in the salary cap from 2012 and 2013 to 2015 and what the future cap’s are projected to be, this is a massive difference in compensation as the percentage of the cap that these three are taking up is much lower than what Johnson, Wallace, Jackson and Fitzgerald consumed.

Jordy Nelson is another solid example of how much the market has dipped with his four-year, $39.05 million contract, which is the 9th highest per year on our site at $9,762,500, just slightly behind Cobb’s deal. Nelson and Cobb have given the Packers an ideal situation as they’ll take up 6.94% of the cap in 2015 and, if the cap moves to $153 million in 2016, they’ll take up 11.73% then. Even in that year two bump that contracts have, they’re going to take up less of the cap together than what Andre Johnson took up in 2014 with the Texans, 11.76%. Just a sign of the way the market has changed.

Here’s the projected four-year cap hit for Cobb and Nelson. While it gets pricey near the end of the deals, for what’s arguably the best pass catching duo in the NFL, in their prime, it’s very manageable:

Nelson and Cobb Cap Hits

In my opinion, the most important players to compare Bryant to will be the Super Bowl champion wide receivers as that’s the goal for every team, to win a Super Bowl, thus why I find the research I’m doing for Caponomics so exciting. I think the Nelson/Cobb tandem is a great example to show us how out-of-whack a $16 million per year deal would be in today’s marketplace.

Like Jason said, we’re unsure how many years Bryant’s looking for, but here’s what $16 million per year would look like in terms of the cap percentage in each season with the projected salary caps in those years:

Dez Bryant Desired Contract

Clearly, $16 million per year is completely out of whack with the current marketplace and six-years at that figure would be a $92 million contract, which isn’t in line with the wide receiver market either as the second highest contract behind the eight-year, $113,450,000 contract that Calvin Johnson signed before 2012, is Mike Wallace’s five-year, $60 million deal that he signed with the Dolphins before 2013. Even if you added a sixth-year to Wallace’s deal, it’d still only be a $72 million contract and he’s the second highest per year contract if you don’t include Bryant’s and Demaryius Thomas’ franchise tag deals.

Those four per year deals for Johnson, Wallace, Jackson and Fitzgerald are still four of the five highest paid in the league all these years after the contracts being signed, again, this is disregarding the franchise tags for Bryant and Thomas because they’re effected by the other deals. Johnson’s deal is so out of line with the market that Bryant and Thomas have the second highest per year contract even though the tag equals the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position.

While Fitzgerald did re-sign to a two-year, $22 million deal during this offseason, as Jason pointed out in that worst wide receiver contracts article, they “somehow made a bad deal even worse.” So, while it is new, it was largely effected by the prior deal, because they would have never re-signed the franchise legend at such a high cost if he wasn’t originally owed $31.5 million.

Now, like with the Nelson and Cobb contracts, I don’t think that Bryant’s contract will be evenly distributed with just $16 million in each season, the $16 million is an average, not what a player is paid each season. So to look for an distribution over six-years, I look towards Mario Williams’ six-year, $96,800,000 monstrosity that he signed before the 2012 season for the percentage of that contract in each year. I explain some of the issues with the contract in detail in Caponomics, but basically, while he’s a great defensive end, his cap hit in 2014 was so restrictive for the team and it isn’t getting easier moving forward. If the cap continued to jump up by $10 million per season, the contract is still far above Reggie White’s 8.90% cap hit in 1996 with the champion Packers, but if it jumps by $5 or $7.5 million, then the Bills are really in trouble.

Mario Williams Contract

Looking at that percent of the contract per season, it lines up with what I’m trying to communicate with Bryant’s deal, since Williams’ contract only $800,000 more than what Bryant would be looking for at a $16 million per year average over six-years.

Like I said above, Williams is a great player, but his contract was very destructive to the Bills the last few years and will be moving forward. They were 9-7 last year with a great defense that was the fourth ranked defense in points and yards allowed, third in passing yards allowed and 11th in rushing yards allowed. Williams was a huge part of that with 14.5 sacks along with defensive end Jerry Hughes and tackle Marcell Dareus who had ten each and defensive tackle Kyle Williams with 5.5. Although they were the best defensive line in the NFL with 40 sacks altogether to help the Bills lead the NFL with 54 total sacks in 2014, they took up 26.72% of the cap, which is an absurd total. The 15 straight 4-3 base defenses that won Super Bowls averaged 11.92% of the cap for their front four, 14.80% less than what the Bills front four cost.

Williams’ 14.14% cap hit in 2014 was a huge part of that considering that by itself it was more than the Super Bowl average, but then Dareus and Kyle Williams were their fourth and fifth highest cap charges behind Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s dead money charges and Jerry Hughes was their 11th highest charge. Rex Ryan did a great job finding himself an organization that has the pieces for him to succeed, but it’s going to be tough to construct a champion with so much invested in one position group.

Back to Bryant, here is what his contract would look like if he’s aiming for that $96 million over six-years, which would be $16 million per year.

Bryant

Now we can really dissect this in terms of the Super Bowl figures for wide receivers because this is what the contract would look like rather than just a flat $16 million per year.

Through my analysis of the 1995 Cowboys for the Caponomics book series, the Cowboys attempted to recreate that 1995 team with the 2014 team and they did it perfectly on offense. Jason Garrett was a part of that 1995 team and he re-implemented the Air Coryell well with Tony Romo in for Troy Aikman, Demarco Murray (now Joseph Randle) for Emmitt Smith, and Dez Bryant for Michael Irvin. Past that Big 3, it gets really creepy when you look at tight ends Jay Novacek and Jason Witton as well as second receivers Kevin and Terrance Williams:

Jay Novacek: 62 catches, 705 yards, 11.4 ypc, 5 TDs

Jason Witten: 64 catches, 703 yards, 11.0 ypc, 5 TDs

Kevin Williams: 38 catches, 613 yards, 16.1 ypc, 2 TDs

Terrance Williams: 37 catches, 621 yards, 16.8 ypc, 8 TDs

It’s creepy that they have it down to the receivers having the same last names, but at least Jay isn’t short for Jason as well.

The only difference with the top three pass catchers is that Irvin had 23 more catches for 283 more yards, but Bryant had six more touchdowns and 0.6 more yards per catch.

At running back, Murray broke the franchise rushing record that Smith set in 1995, but only had 13 rushing touchdowns to Smith’s 25. They both had 4.7 yards per carry with similar receiving seasons with Smith having five more catches and Murray having 41 more yards through the air.

The only real difference between the two offenses, which is largely due to the changes in the way the game is played, is Daryl Johnston at fullback and Cole Beasley as the slot receiver. While Johnston was a mainstay in the backfield, 2014 fullback, Tyler Clutts, played only 163 snaps.

Even with the changes in the game though, Romo only threw for 401 more yards, although he did play one less game, and he had 18 more touchdown passes.

Some of the best organizations of the last 15 years, the Ravens and Patriots in particular, but you could add in the Steelers, Colts, Packers, and Giants to a lesser extent and the Seahawks only recently, have created a formula for success on their rosters and have learned to input interchangeable pieces that work for them. The Eagles are beginning to put this together under Chip Kelly, especially so in this first year with him as the general manager as well. The Ravens and the Patriots are in their own category because they’re masterful at this and have been a real joy to examine. This is what the Cowboys did, they just went all the way back to the 1990s to rediscover that winning formula. They had bell cow backs with Murray at 392 carries and 57 catches and Smith with 377 carries and 62 catches and both led the league in rushing. They carried the load, which put less pressure on Romo and Aikman due to the balance of the offense. Irvin and Bryant were legitimate #1 threats as guys who were in the argument as the best receivers in the league that season as Irvin was in the Top 10 in catches, yards and touchdowns, while Bryant has the most receiving touchdowns and was eighth in yards, but was just outside the Top 10 in catches. They are both 6’2”, which Bryant being about 20 pounds heavier.

Keeping all that in mind, it’s certainly very important to the Cowboys that they keep Dez Bryant, but like they did with Murray, they are unafraid to let him go if it’s not going to be for the right price. Like I said in the article about the receiver bubble bursting, there is too much solid young talent coming into the league, low-cost options and lower cost options compared to what Dez is asking for and it’s having an effect on the entire market.

In regards to the Super Bowl receiver charges, Irvin cost the Cowboys only 5.32% of the cap in 1995, which is more than the 2.37% that Bryant cost in 2014, but obviously much lower than the crazy cap hits that would occur with Bryant’s desired contract. Even just looking at this year’s franchise tag of $12.823 million, if he plays at that number, he will cost the Cowboys 8.95% of the cap and if he gets franchised again in 2016, he will be at that $15,387,600 figure I mentioned before, which would be 10.06% of a $153 million salary cap.

While I completely understand Dez’s desire to get a long-term deal and I sympathize with him because he’s proven himself, it’s not the worst thing in the world to get franchised two seasons in a row. This is why he’s probably looking for such a big contract because even if he doesn’t sign it, he’s still getting top of the market money that’s actually out of line with what a receiver should be paid considering the figures I have for the 21 highest paid Super Bowl receivers.

Jerry Rice has the highest cap hit for a Super Bowl receiver all the way back in 1994 with 8.56% of the cap and Sidney Rice is the second highest with 7.89% in 2013. They were the only two receivers in the Top 3 cap hits for a champ and both of them had reasons why their contracts could be considering out of range for what a Super Bowl receiver should be paid.

Considering that the 1994 49ers were the first champion of the salary cap era, they were able to avoid a lot of the restrictions of the cap as they re-signed 17 veterans in December 1993, so that the money would be in the 1993 budget rather than on the 1994 salary cap. With the way they maneuvered around the cap, I tend to look at the 1994 49ers with a grain of salt because of that advantage that no other champion had other than maybe the 2011 Giants because of the cap less 2010 year, but even then, there were so many questions about future years. With that in mind, Jerry Rice’s 8.56% cap hit of 1994 is even more out of the range of Super Bowl receiver compensation.

With the incredible amount of low-cost talent that the 2013 Seahawks had contributing to that Super Bowl win along with the way the offense was constructed with the power running game of Marshawn Lynch, plus Sidney Rice’s injury to top it off, that all contributes to why we should question his 7.89% cap hit. The 2013 Seahawks were one of the most strangely constructed Super Bowl champs with a block-first tight end as their number one cap hit with injured receivers as their second and ninth cap hits on a team that had a run-based offense.

After them, the third highest paid receiver was Marvin Harrison in 2006 for the Colts and considering that he was one of the best receivers in NFL history and 2006 was his eighth straight 1000-yard season, his 6.27% cap hit might be around where the top of the market should reside. In 2006, he had 95 catches for 1366 yards (14.4 ypc) and 12 touchdowns, so he was third in the NFL in receptions, then second in yards and touchdowns. His fellow receiver Reggie Wayne was tied for third in yards with Roy Williams with 1310 and tied for sixth with nine receiving touchdowns.

Since he had a manageable cap hit, he was their fourth highest cap hit behind Peyton Manning (QB), Tarik Glenn (OL) and Dwight Freeney (DE), while Reggie Wayne was their fifth cap hit at 5.00%. With offensive linemen Ryan Diem and Jeff Saturday as their sixth and seventh cap hits, defensive linemen Corey Simon and Raheem Brock as their eighth and ninth and then wide receiver Brandon Stokley as their tenth, they had a very well-constructed Top 10 for what they were trying to build, a great passing team with just enough on defense to win.

The fourth highest cap hit was Anquan Boldin for the 2012 Ravens at 6.24% and he wasn’t the best receiver in the league statistically, but with 65 catches for 921 yards (14.2 ypc) and four touchdowns during the regular season, then 22 catches for 380 yards (13.7 ypc) and four touchdowns in the playoffs, he was worth every penny. According to Pro Football Focus, Boldin was the sixth best receiver in the NFL in 2012 with a 15.5 overall rating and a 17.1 rating receiving that put him second in the league behind Antonio Brown. He was ranked as the 33rd best blocking receiver that year with a 1.8 rating and with his toughness, it makes him the kind of complete receiver that adds another dimension to the offense. In 2013, they went without

In 2013, the Ravens went without someone in Boldin’s role, which was filled by Derrick Mason from 2005 to 2010, which was Boldin’s first year in Baltimore, and the team went 8-8. Of course, they had other issues that year, but the addition of Steve Smith in 2014 brought back that toughness and spark to the offense and they returned to their winning ways losing to the Patriots in the Divisional Round in that close 35-31 battle. Clearly, while Boldin wasn’t a statistical maven, he was worth every percent of that cap in 2012.

The fifth highest receiver cap charge was Hines Ward in 2008 for the Steelers, a complete player built in that Boldin mold and he cost them 5.78% of that year’s cap. He had 81 catches for 1043 yards (12.9 ypc) and seven touchdowns during the regular season and, while he didn’t do much in the playoffs that year with only nine catches for 168 yards (18.7 ypc) in three games, he was the steadying veteran presence that complemented the young talent of Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and Heath Miller. Holmes won that Super Bowl MVP with nine catches for 131 yards and one touchdown. I like the model the Steelers have used over the years with their receivers, they’re always building from within and letting players go when they get to expensive and replacing them with solid contributors right away. Just last offseason they let Emmanuel Sanders walk and Markus Wheaton and Martavius Bryant combined with Antonio Brown to form one of the cheapest and most explosive receiver groups in the NFL. They had over 1600 receiving yards from Le’Veon Bell and Heath Miller in 2014, plus the addition of Sammie Coates in the 2015 NFL Draft and it’s clear that they’ve got the tools to be exceptional for a long time with a nice veteran and youth balance.

That brings us to Irvin’s 5.32% cap hit from 1995, which, while it’s low, isn’t that low considering the figures I’ve just gone through. In 1995, he had 111 catches for 1603 yards (14.4 ypc) with ten touchdowns and other than Marvin Harrison, he was much better than Boldin and Ward statistically, but they added that scrappiness that can’t be quantified in the scorebook. That being said, Irvin’s a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest receiving talents of all-time and was the perfect deep threat for the Cowboys Air Coryell offense…just like Dez Bryant. Times have changed sine Irvin was the Cowboys top catcher, while the receiver market’s bubble has burst, I think it’s much higher than it was in the 1990s because the game hadn’t made the full transition to a quarterback centric, pass based league.

With that, it brings us full circle, all the way back to Dez Bryant’s contract dispute. While I was writing this, Adam Schefter retweeted this image from @ESPNNFL:

Calvin Johnson:Dez Bryant Comparison

For as good as Bryant is, as evident by this comparison, I don’t think we put him in that Who’s the Best Receiver in the NFL?” conversation that Johnson typically dominates enough. Just last year, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown were propelled into that top level by many, while Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones were involved and Jordy Nelson, Emmanuel Sanders and T.Y. Hilton were on the outskirts of it, but were consistently on the minds of NFL fans this season. Calvin Johnson was in the conversation based on his past exploits, but was hampered by injuries. AJ Green was similarly held out of that public conversation with injuries as well although media personalities and coaches sure haven’t forgotten about him.

Dez Bryant was in that Top 5 range, but he was anywhere from the top dog to number five depending on who you asked. There was Brown’s all-around season of amassing 129 catches for 1698 yards with 13 touchdowns and Beckham’s break-out season with his league leading 108.8 yards receiving per game with 91 catches for 1305 yards (14.3 ypc) and 12 touchdowns in 12 games, and they were kind of the trendy picks that everyone was talking about.

Demaryius Thomas was in that conversation with 111 catches for 1619 (14.6 ypc) and 11 touchdowns in 2014. He has shown a level of consistency with Manning that’s cemented him as a top player with a three year average of 99 catches for 1494 yards (15.1 ypc) and 12 touchdowns per season. Julio Jones is there too as another prototypical, big-bodied #1 like Thomas and unlike Brown and Beckham. Although he missed most of 2013 with an injury, he’s been one of the most freakish athletes in the league since his rookie year. With 104 catches for 1593 yards (15.3 ypc) and six touchdowns in 15 games, which made him second behind Beckham with 106.2 yards per game, he put himself in the Top 5 conversation, especially with his performance during the December loss to the Packers where he had 11 catches for 259 yards (23.6 ypc) and a touchdown.

While Bryant’s undoubtedly in the conversation, I’ve always felt like he hasn’t gotten the level of respect that the side-by-side comparison with Calvin Johnson illustrates that he deserves. Maybe because the Cowboys are one of the most hated teams in the league fans around the league don’t celebrate Bryant the way we do Demaryius Thomas as the Broncos with Peyton Manning were shown to be America’s favorite team in 2014 according to Harris Polls. Brown has a level of quickness and a style of play at his height that causes conversation just on the kind of technician that he is playing the wide receiver position that it garners a lot of attention. The circus catches that Beckham made in his rookie year propelled him into the national spotlight as a constant topic of conversation.

Meanwhile, Bryant’s just been quietly having one of the best starts to a career for a receiver that you could ever hope a player could have when you draft him. Those 56 touchdowns are just ridiculous and give him the third most in NFL history through a player’s first five seasons. For him to have seven more touchdowns through the last five years than Johnson, who at 6’5”, 239-pounds is widely regarded as the best red zone threat in the league, illustrates how much of a scoring threat he is, which adds incredible value to the Cowboys.

What I would do if I were Bryant and his Roc Nation Sports team is, I would try and construct a more team-friendly contract than the one he’s currently looking for because a $16 million contract, as we saw in the table above would cripple the Cowboys salary cap along, but when you combine it with Romo’s deal that runs through 2019, it would leave the Cowboys in a similar position to what the Dolphins have with Ryan Tannehill and Ndamukong Suh, where they’ve spent over one-fourth of their cap on two players. The Cowboys could be in even worse shape than the Dolphins in that scenario because this would make them have two players on the same side of the ball consuming up to 26 or 28% of the cap.

Dez Bryant and Tony Romo

Suh and Tannehill Total Cap Hit

The average cap percentage per year for Suh and Tannehill with the $10 million per year increase is 20.70% of the cap, so it’d be similar to the other projected figures for Romo and Bryant as well.

In my article on Russell Wilson’s upcoming contract negotiations, I approached the contract from the percent of the cap rather than dollar figures because I believe that the percent of the cap should be how we approach everything salary cap related. It’s a metric that helps organizations really stay focused on the effect each contract has on their cap rather than think of each season in salary figures and then do the math in their heads each time. It helps agents and players figure out the best way to negotiate their position in terms of historical values as well as up against current players, but across the years.

Bryant is comparing himself to Calvin Johnson and rightfully so after seeing those stats, but here are Johnson’s contract figures with their percentage of the salary cap:

Calvin Johnson Contract

It’s actually larger than $113,450,000 total contract with $16,207,143 per year because of his prorated signing bonus and guarantees over the course of the contract. He was guaranteed $48,750,000 with a signing bonus of $16,000,000.

Now, if you’re on Bryant’s negotiating team, you know that he’s worth somewhere near there, but in today’s NFL, any team that signs a contract where a receiver could make as much as 16% of the salary cap is essentially guaranteeing that they’ll never win a Super Bowl.

Steve Young on that 1994 49ers team that had the advantage of the uncapped year in 1993 is still the highest paid player in Super Bowl history at 13.08% of the cap, but like I said, that advantage of the uncapped year really makes everything from that year worthy of skepticism. After him, the highest paid player to win a Super Bowl is actually a cornerback, Ty Law had some insane cap hits in 2003 and 2004 for the Patriots at 12.62% in 2004 and 11.74% in 2003. While I don’t agree with them and they’re so far out of range with the rest of the CB cap hits, as Corey Webster with 6.54% of the 2011 Giants cap is the highest non-Ty Law cap hit, it worked for them. Even with this data, I do not approve of a position player making over 10% of the cap let alone near 12%. I think that Tom Brady’s cap hits of 4.43% and 6.26% those two seasons helped cover for this mistake.

The second highest player not named Ty Law is Eli Manning in 2011 at 11.75% of the cap and as I’ll explain in the chapter on that team, that was one of the most improbable champions in NFL history as they had a slew of issues statistically during the season and righted the ship in an unbelievable and unlikely manner. After Manning, the third highest paid champion was Tom Brady this season at 11.13% of the cap.

Back to the receivers, like I noted Jerry Rice’s 8.56% cap hit and Sidney Rice’s 7.89% cap hit might be too high, while Marvin Harrison’s 6.27% might be the ceiling, but that’s probably going to be too low for Bryant’s liking and I don’t blame him.

If I’m Condon and Miele, and I don’t want Bryant to play on the franchise tag this year and potentially next year, even though he’d made a lot of money, I’m making sure that our ask is not in that stratosphere because I think that the new, fiscally prudent Cowboys are aware of the way a bad contract can set an organization back. Honestly though, one or two years on the franchise tag wouldn’t be bad for him financially considering how well paying it is, but the risk of playing two years on it and not hitting the free agency market until he’s 29 would worry me as he might never get a shot at the kind of five or six-year monster deal that he has earned the right to receive.

Here are a few contract structures that I screwed around with that I think make sense for both sides and could become the structure of the deal that they agree to. Each one of these is a six-year deal because it gives Bryant the long-term security that he wants and allows the team to spread the money out over six-years.

The first is simple, it’s a $12 million per year contract that is much more manageable and reasonable than the Calvin Johnson-esque $16 million per year deal that Bryant won’t get from anyone, but the Raiders and, considering that the Cowboys control his next two seasons, is something that he’ll never see. At some point, if Bryant is really attempting to get a deal worth $16 million per year, he’s going to have to realize that it’s not going to happen no matter what he threatens and it’s in his best interest to look for a deal that could happen. Were he to get a contract in this area, then his signing bonus would have to be in the $22 million range, so that he gets $6 million more than Johnson’s signing bonus for much less money. I’d also include $45 million of this guaranteed, so that Bryant gets a ton of security for the lesser money.

These next two deals are still using that percent of contract scale that I took from Mario Williams’ contract, but if I were the Cowboys, I would maneuver them around to make it a $12 million and $13.5 million per year deals, while managing their salary cap in the best possible manner.

Dez Bryant $12 mil per year

The next contract is still more reasonable and manageable than the $16 million monstrosity he’s asking for as this one is worth $13.5 million per season. If I’m negotiating on Bryant’s behalf, I’m selling the Cowboys on the idea that the cap will continue to rise by at least $10 million per year if not more. Considering the Goodell wants the league to have $27 billion in revenues by 2025, the league will have to increase the salary cap by more than $10 million at some point as it grows to that level. In my opinion, with the new opportunities being made available to the NFL through fantasy football and new technologies, I think the league will hit that revenue mark, so it will certainly see major salary cap growth, it’s just a matter of when. If it grows in the next couple years, then those questionable 9%+ cap percentages will be lower than that and more manageable. While I don’t approve of a receiver making more than 9% of the cap with the Caponomics theories that I have, if I was representing him, I would argue that Bryant could be the kind of Warren Sapp difference maker for the Cowboys with his touchdown making ability that would warrant a 9.82% cap hit.

Dez Bryant $13.5 million per year

The third deal is one that I constructed by using the percentage of the cap as my guideline for the contract figures and I gave Bryant percentage of the cap just above the top cap hits for the group that starts with Marvin Harrison all the way up to and past Jerry Rice’s 8.56% of the cap. Like I said before, if he’s scoring touchdowns and making plays, he could, theoretically, be worth more than Rice’s cap hit, he’s that good.

If I were the Cowboys, I would explain to Bryant that this is a contract that gives him almost $14 million per year, which is far above everyone except Calvin Johnson. I’d also, delicately, explain to Dez that Johnson’s contract is, in a word, horrible and it’s why Johnson will (likely) never win a Super Bowl. With this contract, Bryant gets a really, solid deal for him, but it still gives the Cowboys a chance to win as the cap numbers will be team friendly enough to allow them a chance to win Super Bowls if Bryant plays as well as he has so far in his young career.

This ends up being just a bit under $84 million total with almost $13.96 million per year on average. I’d give him a $18 million signing bonus, which is $2 million more than Johnson’s from 2012 with $37.875 million guaranteed because that will be exactly in between Johnson’s $48.75 million guaranteed and Mike Wallace’s $27 million guaranteed, which is currently the second highest total. If I’m the Cowboys, I’m hoping that the cap goes up by more than $10 million per year, but that’s a risk that’s worth taking in the current climate of the NFL’s continuing growth.

This contract also gives them lower cap hits in 2015 and 2016, which are the most important considering that they should be in win-now mode with Romo nearing the end of his prime with his back issues. I have a feeling that 2019 and 2020 will be years where the Cowboys will be breaking in a new quarterback, so the window of opportunity will probably be closed by the time he hits cap percentages that would be a bit hard to win Super Bowls with if the current rate of cap growth stays the same.

Bryant's Cap Percent Contract

Now, if Bryant doesn’t want to take that contract then I would just franchise him for two years and let him go find the contract he’s looking for in Oakland in 2017 or whoever has replaced Oakland at that point as the team where careers go to die for inflated contracts if Jack Del Rio turns that ship around. I just don’t think that there could be a fairer contract for both sides than the one that I have here. Plus, if they franchise him for two years, then they’ll have the time to replace him through the draft. While the franchise tag does pay players very fairly, the amount of leverage they have to control his contract through most of his prime might be something that the NFLPA will want to revisit in the next CBA.

I’ve been working on this for the last eight hours, it’s two in the morning, but I want to get this out ASAP considering that Tom Condon and Jerry Jones may have just put together a deal that works as we speak. Please excuse any typos and have a great day.

As the sweet old lady from the CVS at the top of campus at the University of Rhode Island used to say…”YOU HAVE AN EXCELLENT…”

@ZackMooreNFL

  • McGeorge

    The cowboys are murdering Dez.
    How can they expect him to feed his family for 12MM?

    If the Cowboys weren’t as concerned about his off field issues, maybe he would have had a contract more to his liking. There is a moral in there somewhere –
    Don’t act like a dick and things will probably turn out better for you.

  • John

    Condense your articles man. You were rambling about the Buffalo Bills’ defensive line in a article trying to project Dez’s new contract

    • CelticHarvest

      Have you ever read a book?

      • John

        Never. Except #Caponomics

        • I hear you John, something I’m working on over time. With these, I like to leave some of those things in there because it lets you know my thought process and where an idea comes from, like Williams’ per year percentage, but then I did go off about the whole DL, which might not have had a place, but was part of a broader point regarding how bad spending can still kill you even if they perform.

          It’s definitely something that I’m working on with editors for my book. Thanks for the constructive criticism though and I hope you’ll buy the book.

  • CelticHarvest

    Very in-depth. Nice work, Zack.

  • John Jenkins

    My only hope is that both sides understand the cap implications of the deal as well as you do. Awesome article.

    • John Jenkins

      Have a feeling Stephen Jones subscribes to the same line of thinking as you do. Dez on the other hand I am more worried about. If they were to explain to Dez that he will never win if he gets the money that he is asking for I bet he would bring down his ask.