IRVING, Texas (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dez Bryant has agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
The deal with the All-Pro receiver broke a stalemate that lasted months, and ended about an hour before the Wednesday deadline to get a multiyear deal done. The contract includes $45 million guaranteed for last year’s NFL leader in touchdowns receiving.
Bryant had threatened to skip training camp and regular-season games without a contract to replace the $12.8 million offer for one year he had under the franchise tag.
Now the Cowboys can focus on defending their NFC East title and trying to make a deeper playoff run after one that ended on Bryant’s much-debated catch that wasn’t in a divisional-round loss to Green Bay.
The deal ended the contract-related drama that filled the offseason for the Cowboys. First they decided not to match Philadelphia’s offer on running back DeMarco Murray in free agency, and let the NFL rushing leader go to one of their division rivals.
Then the focus turned to Bryant, who scored 16 times last season and has the most touchdowns receiving in the league since 2010, when Dallas drafted him late in the first round after his stock fell over concerns about off-the-field issues.
The two-time Pro Bowler would occasionally use Twitter to express frustration over not having what he thought was a suitable offer. The most pointed threat came Monday, when he tweeted he would “not be there if no deal,” clearly a reference to training camp coming up in two weeks. Bryant had already said he would consider missing games, at a cost of about $750,000 each time he didn’t play.
Before the long-term deal got done, Dallas couldn’t fine Bryant for missing offseason workouts and camp practices because he hadn’t signed the guaranteed $12.8 million tender. Bryant didn’t practice all spring, but did show up from time to time. That included the final mandatory minicamp workout, when he had a 15-minute conversation with owner Jerry Jones.
Because of those appearances, the Cowboys were gambling that the passionate Bryant simply wouldn’t be able to stay away once games started. Now Dallas doesn’t have to worry about it.
The Cowboys believed they could let Murray walk because they’ve assembled one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, bolstered by three first-round picks in the past five drafts. The last of those, Zack Martin, was the first rookie All-Pro for Dallas since Calvin Hill in 1969.
But the prospect of playing without Bryant was more daunting for Dallas. He has more catches (381), yards (5,424) and touchdowns (56) through five years than any receiver in franchise history — a list that includes Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Bob Hayes.
The most accomplished receiver behind Bryant is Terrance Williams, who has 81 grabs for 1,357 yards and 13 TDs in two seasons.
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