For the first time since the Cowboys drafted him in the first round of 2010 draft, Dez Bryant isn’t among the Cowboys’ top priorities.
Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks last season, is a priority. So is right guard Zack Martin, considered one of the NFL’s best.
Even defensive tackle David Irving is higher on the Cowboys’ priority list than Bryant.
Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones told reporters Tuesday at the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis that he expects to meet with the agents for Lawrence and Martin this week.
Bryant? Jones doesn’t have any meetings scheduled with his agent to discuss the pay cut everybody but Bryant seems to know is coming.
A couple of weeks ago, we figured Bryant, who’s scheduled to earn $12.5 million this season and count $16.5 million against the club’s salary cap, would take a pay cut to about $6 million and keep it moving.
Now, Jones is giving off a vibe like Bryant won’t be here next year.
“When these times come, whether it's Troy (Aikman), whether it’s Emmitt (Smith) whether it’s Michael (Irvin), when that time finally gets there it’s a difficult decision,” Jones told reporters. “You’ve seen the press conferences when Troy retires or Michael retires, it’s a lot of emotion.
“And not to say Dez is at that point but all these decisions are very difficult, especially with great players who’ve done so much for our organization."
Bryant is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $70 million deal he signed after the 2014 season. That season culminated a three-year stretch in which he averaged 91 catches for 1,321 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In the past three seasons, he’s averaged four catches for 53 yards a game.
He hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season in three years, and it has been 22 games since his last 100-yard game.
These days, he provides more great moments than games.
That’s not good enough for a dude who’s currently the NFL’s seventh highest-paid receiver. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to blame quarterback Dak Prescott, the offensive scheme or Bryant, the reality is Bryant isn’t producing numbers commensurate with his salary.
Twice, recently, Jones has made it clear there’s no guarantee Bryant will be on the Cowboys next season. It’s more about what he hasn’t said, than what he has said.
There’s no doubt Jones wants Lawrence and Martin back. He’s said nothing that makes you think he wants Bryant back.
Perhaps, he’s giving fans time to get used to the idea of Bryant playing for another team, so it won’t come as a shock when it happens. Maybe, he’s really giving Bryant time to get used to the idea.
“We all know this is a business where everyone has to be accountable, “ Jones told reporters at the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award dinner last week. “Certainly, everybody knows that.
“We're going to be grinding it out and trying to determine what is in the best interest of our business."
Bryant didn’t help his cause by going on the Ben & Skin show (105.3-FM) last week and blaming his lack of production last season - 69 catches for 838 and six touchdowns - on nagging injuries and a lack of focus.
Then he talked about the possibility of not playing through injuries in the future, and encouraging his younger teammates to do the same.
Does that sound like the kind of player the Cowboys want in their locker room?
“I don't even want it to sound like an excuse, but it is the truth," Bryant said of being compromised by injury on 105.3. "It's like one thing that I know, (trainer Jim Maurer) will tell you I hate going in that training room. I don't like going in that training room, especially when I needed to be in that training room.
"But this time around, I want to take care of my body. I want to get it all the way right. I want it to be right. I promise you, I ain't having nobody questioning me again. This is what I love, and I accept everything that's coming my way right now. That's OK. That's fine.
“I just want to work. That all I want to do. I want to work. I want to stay out of the way. I want to control what I can control and I want my respect. That's it."
That’s fine, but it sounds like he’s going to have to get it on another team because Jones sounds like he’s ready to move on.