By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Everyone needs to stop trying to make Dez Bryant happen. Especially Dez Bryant. Because it isn’t happening – unless the free-agent receiver is willing to do something he’s never done in his career.
That “something” would be to scarf down a heapin’ helpin’ of “humble pie”. That is, accept that you’re at best a complementary, part-time receiver in the Patriots offense. And an inexpensive one, at that. Bryant is reportedly fine with a one-year deal at this point, but wants at least $5 million. He also apparently turned down three years and up to $21 million from the Ravens.
The Bryant-to-New England speculation has been percolating at least since minicamp, when the team’s depth issues at receiver really came to a head. And now, Bryant himself is starting to put the Patriots in his mouth. He’s even gone so far as to tell people he’s “probably” going to the Patriots.
All that, and yet there’s been nary a whisper of Bryant even coming to Foxboro for a visit. To be fair, that can’t be ruled out entirely. Especially since the local master of “informed speculation”, ESPN’s Mike Reiss, floated the idea out there earlier this week. He’s foreshadowed similar moves before, like the team’s reunion with tight end Martellus Bennett last season.
But that doesn’t mean that Bryant is going to actually sign here. Unless there’s a significant financial sea change for the talented but mercurial veteran receiver, he won’t. He almost certainly would have to accept a veteran’s minimum deal, which by now would cost the Pats under $1 million. Adrian Peterson did it with the Redskins. There’s no way that Bill Belichick would be willing to assume the risk associated with bringing Bryant into the locker room if he couldn’t minimize the gamble on his end. Is Bryant willing to bet on himself to the point that he practically comes to New England on a free-roll?
Bryant’s talent is no doubt tantalizing, even if he’s diminished from his prime years in Dallas. Maybe it would even be worth the potential headaches. It would be hard to believe that any one player could disrupt such a strong veteran locker room. But the fact that Belichick even bypassed Bryant to take a flyer on Corey Coleman ought to tell you how averse the Patriots really are to signing Bryant off the street.
And despite his talent, he’d still be far from a guarantee to become a viable piece in the Patriots offense. It took over a year for Phillip Dorsett to develop into the dependable complementary receiver that he looks like now. And he didn’t do anything wild against the Texans on Sunday (unless you count his shake & bake on a screen that he learned from Cordarrelle Patterson). He simply knows the offense, runs his routes properly, and gets to the right spot for Brady to deliver him the football.
Bryant has never been known as a crisp route-runner. He’s a one-on-one matchup nightmare when he’s at his best, and can catch contested balls with the best of them. But what are the odds that Brady would actually trust him enough to toss up 50-50 balls to a guy who just showed up?
As long as Brady has played at a high level, the Patriots have never needed a receiver like Bryant. And that definitely isn’t changing now.
But amazingly, the Bryant-to-New England talk continues to survive like a cockroach in a nuclear winter. The buzz continues to build. Everyone keeps clicking on the latest rumor-mongering. For whatever reason, the numerous (and obvious) factors in the Patriots passing on Bryant continue to be dismissed or ignored.
Just because you’re signing a talented player doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Receiver isn’t a plug-and-play position, especially not in New England. Plenty of talented players, especially receivers, have come and gone in Foxboro. It’s only part of the battle. There’s only one Randy Moss, only one Rob Gronkowski. And even Moss couldn’t last more than a couple of seasons with Brady throwing him the ball.
The Patriots have made 20 transactions involving receivers this offseason, none of which have involved Bryant in any fashion. Twenty! Tom Brady was asked about how challenging it’s been for him and the offense to deal with all that movement. He explained in so many words why the Patriots can’t just bring in the most talented receiver on the market and have success.
“You know, the receiver position is very critical,” said Brady. “I would say it’s not a very easy position to learn in our offense. There’s a lot of terminology. There’s a lot of high expectations to perform at a very high level. So, you know, it kind of is what it is and we’ll just make the most of it.”
Translation: “We want smart players who work hard and put the time in. Not some flashy free agent who hasn’t practiced all offseason.”
All this being said, there should still be a sliver of a speck of a possibility that Bryant ends up in Foxboro at some point. It’s just not going to be until later in the season if it ever happens, and it would have to be a zero-risk proposition for Belichick and the Patriots. Bryant would have to humble himself like never before in order for the Patriots to take the plunge. But they’ve made enough moves at receiver already to indicate that they’re simply not willing to brave Dez Bryant Boulevard.
Unless, of course, the road is nice and paved. With no bumps in sight. Otherwise, stop trying to make Bryant happen. That especially goes for Bryant himself.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.