FRISCO, Texas -- As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to head to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine next week to study draftable players, one player already on the roster will be in the forefront: Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys have a decision to make on the franchise's leader in touchdown receptions: keep him at his $16.5 million salary-cap figure, ask him to take a pay cut or release him.
Keeping him at that figure, which includes a $12.5 million base salary, is not really an option. The other options could come down to how badly Bryant wants to remain in Dallas and how much the Cowboys want to pay him.
"No one wants to compete and get after it more than Dez," executive vice president Stephen Jones said at the first Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award dinner. "At the same time, we all know this is a business where everyone has to be accountable. Certainly, everybody knows that. You know, that's a tough one. Certainly, we're going to be grinding it out and trying to determine what is in the best interest of our business."
Since signing a five-year, $70 million contract in 2015, Bryant has not recorded a 1,000-yard season. He has battled through foot and knee injuries. He played in every game in 2017 and finished with 69 receptions for 838 yards and six touchdowns. He was 28th in the league in yards and tied for 24th in catches.
The Cowboys do not need to make room to get under the salary cap before free agency begins, but they probably will have to make some moves to create room if they want to be active when the market opens. They will use the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, which would cost more than $17 million, if they are unable to reach a long-term deal before March 6.
"Dez understands this is a business. No one thinks more of Dez Bryant than starting at the top, Jerry, and certainly me, his teammates, Coach Garrett, Will McClay," Jones said. "We all have a tremendous amount of respect for Dez. But that's one of the things we're going to have to work through as we move into our future."