Final Exam: Time right for Dez's extension?

There is no doubt that Dez Bryant will be a major piece of the Dallas Cowboys' foundation for years to come.

It's a matter of when, not if, the 2010 first-round pick gets rewarded with a rich contract extension.

The question is whether or not the timing will be right for the Cowboys to get that deal done this offseason. Given their salary cap situation, it probably won't be.

That's not a major problem. Bryant has one season remaining on his rookie deal, which would pay him a base salary of $1.78 million in 2014.

Would Bryant love to get a big raise coming off of his first Pro Bowl season? Of course, but he's not going to pout if he has to play out his rookie contract. He's more motivated by making the playoffs for the first time than money anyway.

The important thing to recognize is that the Cowboys aren't at any risk whatsoever of losing Bryant in free agency after his rookie deal is done. That simply isn't even a remote possibility.

First of all, when has Jerry Jones ever lost a player that he was determined to keep on the Dallas roster? It just doesn't happen. Bryant, who wants to play his entire career with the Cowboys, isn't going to be the first.

The worst-case scenario is that the Cowboys would have to use the franchise tag on Bryant in 2015 and maybe again the next season. And that wouldn't be such a bad thing from the team's perspective, either.

When Bryant gets a new deal, it's a good bet that he'll be paid top-five receiver money, so it's not like the Cowboys would be overpaying by using the franchise tag on him. He'd just count more against the cap than they hoped because there wouldn't be a signing bonus to spread out over multiple years of the contract.

But it's doubtful it'd even come to that point. Deals tend to get done when the mutual interest is this strong.

It's a safe bet that Bryant will be the Cowboys' second highest-paid player relatively soon. It's just more likely to happen in 2015 than this year.