Cowboys Release Dez Bryant After 8 Seasons, WR Says ‘This Wasn’t My Decision’

(CBS) — Dez Bryant’s eight-year career with the Cowboys came to an end on Friday. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirms the ESPN report  that the team is moving on from the wide receiver. Bryant, who hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2014, had a Friday meeting with owner and general manager Jerry Jones, three days before the team opens offseason workouts.

According to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer, Bryant was not offered a pay cut, will not be designated a post-Jun1 cut, and the team will save $8 million against the salary cap this season.

Regularly mentioned as one of the league’s best wide receivers for most of his career, Bryant blamed injuries and a predictable offensive game plan for his pedestrian 2017 season (69 catches, 838 yards, six touchdowns). In January, days after the Cowboys finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs, Jones made it clear that he expected more from Bryant.

“Well, I think Dez is right. We need more from Dez. We need bigger plays,” Jones told CBS Sports Radio’s 105.3 The Fan at the time. “That’s obvious to everybody is we didn’t get big plays. I don’t know that you ever get enough of them, but we certainly didn’t get the amount that we have to have to change our fate here. And, so, I agree with him. We need to have bigger plays.

“There’s a lot into that, but we’ve got to get more from — he’s [a] top player on our team. He certainly expects to make big plays, the expectation for Dak to get him the ball is there. We’ve gotten used to it. Yeah, we need more from that area.”

Jones wasn’t wrong. Bryant was No. 31 in total value among all wideouts in 2016, according to Football Outsiders, and he played in just 13 games and had 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. In ’17, Bryant fell to 72nd, just ahead of teammate Cole Beasley, who counted $4.5 million against the cap in 2017 compared to Bryant’s $17 million cap number. Which brings us to  Bryant’s 2018 cap number — $16.5 million — which hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Cowboys’ front office, particularly in light of the dip in production.

Regarding any talk of a pay cut, Bryant never embraced the idea.

“I haven’t heard no talks of [a pay cut],” Bryant said in December 2017, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. “But if it comes … I don’t know. Probably not. Hell no. I believe in me.”

Bryant will have plenty of suitors should he hit free agency, but it’s hard to imagine any team paying him as one of the league’s top wideouts. Instead, Bryant, who is more possession receiver than deep threat, will be looking for a contract similar to the three-year, $21 million deal the Ravens gave Michael Crabtree last month.