Much like Winter, an Extension for Dez Bryant is coming. Bryant is entering the last year of his rookie contract and both he and Cowboy's director of player personnel Steven Jones have recently answered questions regarding an extension. Looking at the Cowboys history in such matters you can safely assume the ink will be dry before the start of the 2014 season.
While a contract extension is a perfectly normal item of business in the NFL, the process for Bryant will receive an inordinate amount of attention. Dez Bryant is one of the most reported on, but possibly most misunderstood players in the league. Unfortunately for Bryant, he's established a reputation for being a troublemaker and a diva. It's not a reputation that's completely warranted, and yet there is enough smoke that it can't be discounted entirely. This reputation is the usual focal point when reporting on Bryant, but as is often the case, the reality is more complex.
The following is a well documented incident last season during the Cowboys game against the Lions last season.
Bryant was caught on camera yelling on the sidelines at Tony Romo and later Jason Witten. The announcers immediately decried the immaturity of Bryant and for around 24 hours the rest of the media world did the same. Romo and Bryant repeatedly claimed that the tirade wasn't negative, but most reporters assumed this was damage control on the part of the two players. However, then a funny thing happened. The NFL released the audio, and it turns out Tony and Dez weren't lying.
Dez Bryant was upset that the Cowboys had failed to score. At one point he even yelled at Tony "We the best in the NFL on that!" While there was never audio released for the yelling match between Witten and Bryant, both have claimed Witten was just trying to make sure Dez was focused to come back on the field for one last drive. Bryant was “enthusiastically” telling Jason he was, in fact, focused. Were the two outbursts a tad immature? Maybe. Probably. Were they wildly energetic and largely positive. Yeah, definitely. So what's the verdict on Dez for that day on the sideline? His teammates all seem to praise his attitude and enthusiasm. The media likes to focus on the immaturity piece.
One of the first times Bryant came to the attention of national media was during his rookie season. He was criticized for refusing to carry the pads of a teammate as part of a hazing tradition. He was called immature and given terms like prima donna and diva. Later as a rookie, he was put on the hook for a $55,000 dinner bill. Looking back on those incidents now after the unfortunate events in Miami, are we still willing to call Bryant a diva for not wanting to carry the pads?
Very recently, Dez was one of the first to be vocal about his frustration with Sean Lee's injury. But this frustration isn't selfish. The Dallas Morning News has reported that Bryant is planning on wearing a '50' somewhere on his person in honor of Lee.
For all the stories of immaturity, there are certainly a large number of counter points to be had. The Cowboys know the truth of Bryant and the looming contract will be reflective of that knowledge. Dez Bryant is a valuable teammate with a nearly unmatched skill set and physique. He is unapologetically passionate and he is... yeah... not as mature as he could be. Regardless, he's a loyal Cowboy. As mentioned in this space before. Mr. Jones rewards loyal Cowboys.
In 2011 Larry Fitzgerald signed an 8 year 120 million dollar extension. In 2012 Calvin Johnson signed an 8 year deal worth approximately $132m. Both deals have already been restructured.
Expect something similar to Calvin Johnson's deal, but with a bit less money. It'll have a high signing bonus 16-20m and it will run 6-7 years. Also, don't worry about the cap hit. Jerry is the master at restructuring deals by converting base salary into pro-rated cash.
My guess is 7/115 with 35-40% guaranteed, 18m signing bonus and a few incentives that could raise the deal by another 15m. It will take effect immediately and raise Bryant's base salary for the 2014 season.