The question directed to coach Jason Garrett on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine was pointed and without ambiguity.
Do you want Dez Bryant to stay in Dallas?
“You know we haven't had any specific personnel meetings about any of our players," Garrett said.
Do you think he would say that about Demarcus Lawrence or Zack Martin or Dak Prescott or Jason Witten?
Garrett’s non-answer tells you everything you need to know about the tenuous nature of Bryant’s roster spot.
Consider this: Try to think of any other off-season since the Cowboys drafted Bryant with the 24th pick in the 2010 draft that Garrett would’ve said anything other than, “absolutely”, when asked if he wanted Bryant to stay in Dallas.
No one knows if the Cowboys will cut Bryant this off-season, but they’re certainly considering it.
Bryant is discovering the stuff folks put up when you average 91 catches, 1,321 yards and 14 touchdowns - as he did from 2012-2014 - is considerably different than the stuff they put up when you average 50 catches for 639 yards and six touchdowns as he’s done the past three seasons.
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Last season, Bryant caught 60 passes for 839 yards and six touchdowns. He hasn’t had a thousand-yard season in three years and it has been 22 games since he had a 100 yards receiving in a game.
He’s supposed to earn $12.5 million and count $16.5 million against the club’s 2018 salary cap. No team in the league is paying that kind of money for the numbers he’s produced recently.
Reality says Bryant is going to take a pay cut whether he plays in Dallas or somewhere else. The real question is whether the Cowboys even want him.
Stephen Jones has said all the right things publicly since the season ended, but he’s also criticized Bryant’s occasional sideline antics, referring to them as distractions. And Jones hasn’t been bashful about talking about potentially cutting Bryant’s salary.
The hardest part, as usual, will be convincing owner Jerry Jones that it’s time to part with the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receiving touchdowns, a player who has provided a litany of spectacular moments in his career.
That said, the worst thing a coach, GM or owner can do is fall in love with the name on the back of the jersey.
The easy thing to do is to keep Bryant and give him one last opportunity to be an elite player in a Cowboys’ uniform. The hard thing to do is release him, but that’s what the best coaches and organizations do. It’s always better to get rid of a player a year early rather than a year late.
Don’t forget, Stephen Jones convinced his father to get rid of Terrell Owens after the 2008 season, when he caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Do you really think he wouldn’t cut Bryant after the awful three-year stretch he’s had? Besides, Bryant may have talked himself out of town during a 20-minute interview on the Ben & Skin Show (105.3-FM), which is on the team’s flagship station.
During the interview he talked about having a reluctance to play through injuries in the future, something he said he’d share with the club’s younger players.
Bryant also talked about how nagging injuries such as knee tendinitis slowed him down this season, but he made a point to talk about how he didn’t always get treatment during the season.
"I don't know the specifics of that interview," Garrett said of Bryant's comments. "I do know our feelings about him. He's been a great player for us for a long time."
“We have a tremendous amount of love for Dez Bryant as an organization. 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.
"He's been a great player for us for a long time."
But that time feels like it’s rapidly coming to an end.