Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant hasn’t been as productive as the franchise has needed him to be after signing a five-year, $70 million deal in the offseason in 2015 and that’s going to force Jerry Jones to make a difficult decision in the spring.
With the potential to save $8 million in cap space by releasing the superstar wide receiver, Dallas will likely have discussions about a pay cut before ultimately making a decision. However, Bryant should read up on a recent Pro Football Focus article that defends his reputation as a No. 1 wide receiver before he enters those meetings.
Despite significant dropoffs in the standard measures of productivity for a wide receiver (receptions, yards and touchdowns), PFF makes the argument that quarterback play has been a primary factor in his decline using a few advanced metrics.
For starters, Bryant is still very good with the ball in his hands after the catch. He’s second in the NFL in forced missed tackles per reception among receivers with at least 50 catches behind Golden Tate of the Detroit Lions.
And that was always Bryant’s primary strength. Whether he was making a move to get by somebody or running through smaller defensive backs, he was always a load to bring down in the open field.
While that element of his game hasn’t subsided, PFF also cites their statistic that just 59.6 percent of his targets have been catchable passes in the last three years. That essentially lays the blame at the feet of the assortment of quarterbacks they turned to when Tony Romo got hurt in 2015 and Dak Prescott, the new face of the franchise.
That all paints a pretty compelling picture for Bryant. However, there are a few missing elements to the PFF story and that’s by design.
There’s no mention of how heavily the catchable targets rate might be skewed by the awful quarterback situation in 2015. PFF also doesn’t make any mention of how Bryant’s inability to create separation and his demands that the ball be forced his way contribute to those uncatchable balls, because that number isn’t entirely derived of poor QB play.
That’s because, as remarkably informative as the work these PFF articles are, they’re all advertisements, in essence. The vast majority of the free-to-the-public work that they produce scrapes at the surface of a more detailed look at a popular subject of discussion using one of their signature metrics because they (understandably) want you to buy their PFF Edge subscription at either $34.99 a month or $199.99 a year.
Of course, despite his reputation as a self-absorbed wide receiver, Bryant has the respect of his teammates and he loves them right back. So he isn’t going to throw anybody directly under the bus like that anyways, but his agents at Roc Nation would be foolish not to lean heavily on those numbers and conveniently leave out most of the counterargument just as PFF did if they’re asked to renegotiate his deal.
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