On Tuesday, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team does not have any meetings scheduled with Bryant’s agent to talk about reworking his contract. Asked Wednesday if he wanted Bryant to return to the Cowboys in 2018, head coach Jason Garrett said the team has not had specific personnel meetings about any players yet.
“We had a wrap-up meeting at the end of the season, almost reviewing what happened last year,” Garrett said from the NFL scouting combine, “and we’ll have some more meetings starting this week, and then once we get back to Dallas about the specific roles for each of our players going forward.”
If Bryant’s future with the team was secure, there would be no need to entertain the possibilities of releasing him or asking him to take a pay cut, and the front office and coach would say so. The Cowboys’ decisions are these: Pay him $12.5 million and have him count $16.5 million against the cap, ask him to take a pay cut or release him.
There is no pressing need to make a move almost two weeks before free agency begins, since the Cowboys do not need the extra cap room.
“Obviously, a [decision] is going to happen sooner than later,” Jones said. “We’ve got the new year coming up. We have a lot of moving parts. We have been getting our staff together. Once we got our staff together, we have had some meetings. Then, of course, Jason [Garrett], his father passed, which was very unfortunate. We will spend a lot of time together this week. I’m sure we will start to make some pretty good headway.”
Like Jones, Garrett praised Bryant’s time with the Cowboys. Bryant is the franchise leader in touchdown catches. He put up three straight seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.
“We have a tremendous amount of love for Dez Bryant as an organization,” Garrett said. “He’s made so many contributions to our team. I personally have a lot of love for him as a player and more so as a person. The growth and development that he’s made over the course of his career with us has been exponential and has made a huge impact on our team.”
But business intersects with production. Bryant’s production has fallen in the past three years, and not solely because of his play. He had foot and knee injuries in 2015 and ’16. The Cowboys had poor quarterback play in 2015, with Tony Romo playing just four games because of a twice-broken collarbone. In 2016, the Cowboys were a run-first offense led by Ezekiel Elliott. In 2017, the offense stagnated in the second half of the season in part of because of Elliott’s suspension.
“Obviously, there are a lot of decisions we have to make with our team,” Garrett said. “Like we’ve talked about, your 2018 team will be different than 2017. We have some guys who are out of contract. We have some guys at different kinds of contracts that you have to discuss every year.”
With or without Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals’ receiver room needs work – Arizona Cardinals Blog
TEMPE, Ariz. — With a little over a week until the start of free agency, the Arizona Cardinals still don’t know if they’ll be playing with or without future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in 2021.
Since he began playing on one-year contracts in 2016, the 37-year-old Fitzgerald has never taken until March to decide his future. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said last week he had no updates on Fitzgerald’s status and was giving the 11-time Pro Bowl player the “space” he “deserves.”
Fitzgerald has been a constant presence for the Cardinals since the 2004 season, but regardless of whether he returns, Arizona’s wide receiver room may be in for an overhaul.
The Cardinals finished with 4,102 receiving yards last season, their most since 2016, but often it was DeAndre Hopkins or bust. Hopkins had 1,407 yards — third most in the NFL — and six touchdowns on 115 catches in his first season with the Cardinals. The next most? Christian Kirk‘s 621 yards on 48 catches.
“DeAndre is phenomenal talent,” first-year Arizona wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said. “Right now, to be honest with you, he’s probably the only one in the league I can compare to Calvin Johnson. [He] has the kind of skill set that Calvin had, playing above the rim, and just in those competitive situations, finding a way to come down with balls and everything like that.
“He’s a generational talent, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Among Arizona’s top five receivers last season, two weren’t designated wide receivers. Tight end Dan Arnold was third with 438 yards on 31 catches, and running back Chase Edmonds was fifth with 402 yards on 53 catches. For a team that plays 65% of its snaps with at least three receivers on the field — 20.3% with four receivers — more from that group is needed.
Fitzgerald, who played in 13 games last season, finished with 409 yards, his fewest in a regular season in his career. And his 7.57 yards per catch was the lowest of his career. For context, the last time he played in less than 16 games was 2014, and he had 784 yards.
Kirk also saw his production drop in Year 2 under coach Kliff Kingsbury. He went from 709 yards on 68 catches in 13 games in 2019 to 621 yards on 48 catches in 14 games — although with 10 starts — in 2020. He did set a career high with six touchdowns, which was equal to his scoring production in his first two seasons.
Two years ago, the Cardinals drafted three receivers, but only Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson remain, and neither contributed much to the Cardinals’ offense, with 224 yards and 173 yards, respectively. The Cardinals released Hakeem Butler, the third receiver drafted in 2019, before last season.
Jefferson is in the early stages of evaluating what he’s working with but had an early diagnosis of the Cardinals’ receivers room: “This team has talent.”
He praised both Isabella and Johnson for having the ability needed to play in the NFL. Thus far, however, the talent Jefferson sees on tape hasn’t translated to production.
“My job is to come here and get the most out of both of them, and I’m sure that both those guys have a lot to add to this team,” Jefferson said in February. “So I’m in the evaluation stage right now of the receiver group, early stages of it, and I’m looking forward to working with those guys.”
With Hopkins accounting for 34.3% of Arizona’s receiving and no one else accounting for more than 15.1%, the Cardinals didn’t have a clear-cut No. 2 receiver last year. Adding one this year will be a priority, whether that’s in free agency or in a draft loaded with receiving talent. In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay projected five receivers to go in the first round, where the Cardinals hold the No. 16 pick.
If he returns, Fitzgerald’s impact on the passing game shouldn’t affect how the Cardinals approach the offseason. In whatever role he assumes, Fitzgerald’s reliability makes him a threat. He has the lowest drop percentage — 0.8% — in the last five years among receivers with at least 200 catches.
Arizona has a foundation in its receiving room with Hopkins, but it’s up to Keim to put complementary pieces around him, regardless of whether Fitzgerald returns. Kirk could be one of those players. Beyond that, however, Arizona hasn’t been getting much production out of the rest of its receivers.
And that could lead to an overhaul this offseason.
Tennessee Titans shipping Isaiah Wilson to Miami Dolphins
The Titans will send a seventh-round pick in 2022 and Wilson to Miami for a 2021 seventh-rounder to complete the deal, sources said.
Wilson will need to pass his physical in Miami once the new league year begins next week for the trade to be officially completed. If he doesn’t, he would revert back to the Titans.
Tennessee signed Wilson, the 29th overall selection in last April’s draft, to a four-year, $11.6 million contract in August. His time in Tennessee didn’t get off to a good start, prompting the team to move on from him less than a year later.
The right tackle out of the University of Georgia played only four snaps in his rookie season, which culminated in him being placed on the non-football injury list in December. Before that, Wilson found himself on the reserve/COVID-19 list twice last year, during training camp and in October.
He also had a couple of run-ins with the law.
The first incident came when Tennessee State police broke up an off-campus party that Wilson had attended during training camp. In their report, the police documented that Wilson went to the second-floor balcony, where he appeared to briefly consider jumping. He received a trespass warning.
The second incident occurred when Wilson was arrested and charged with a DUI in September when he lost control of his vehicle and struck a concrete wall.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson addressed Wilson’s status during a virtual news conference last month, telling reporters he had not spoken to him since putting him on the NFI list and suggesting that Wilson “makes a determination on whether he wants to do what it takes to play pro football.”
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are buying low on Wilson. They liked him leading up to the 2020 NFL draft and he could have been a candidate for a Day 2 pick by the team, a source told ESPN. Now the Dolphins are taking virtually a free chance to help him revive his NFL career.
Wilson played at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, where Dolphins coach Brian Flores attended high school. Wilson also attended Georgia with Dolphins guard Solomon Kindley.
Miami now hopes those connections will help get more out of Wilson than Tennessee did.
NFL Network first reported the trade agreement Monday.
ESPN’s Dianna Russini and Cameron Wolfe contributed to this report.
Washington Football Team places franchise tag on Brandon Scherff
Scherff will receive $18.03 million in the 2021 season — a 20% increase over last season. But Washington still hopes to sign him to a long-term deal. It has until July 15 to do so, and a source described talks so far as amicable.
Scherff, who turned 29 in December, played on the franchise tag last season, earning $15.03 million. He also became the first Washington player to be named first team All-Pro since punter Matt Turk in 1996. Scherff has made four Pro Bowls, including the past two.
Coaches liked how Scherff played inside, but also how well he blocked on the move in the screen game.
But injuries also have been an issue. Scherff hasn’t played all 16 games since 2016 and has missed a combined 18 games the past four years. He ended up on injured reserve in 2017 and ’18.
Washington selected Scherff with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, intending to try him at right tackle first. But Washington moved him to right guard early in his first camp and started Morgan Moses at tackle, creating a strong tandem on the right side.
While at Iowa, Scherff was named the Outland Trophy winner in 2014 as the nation’s best offensive lineman.
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