IRVING, Texas -- What has been known for some time is now official: The Dallas Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Dez Bryant.
While the tag all but secures Bryant's rights for 2015, the Cowboys hope they can work out a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline. If they don't, then Bryant will play the season on the tag for $12.823 million, the tender amount for franchised wide receivers in 2015 as part of the salary cap being set at $143.28 million.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones had said Friday that the team had informed Bryant's agent that he would receive the tender. The Cowboys did not use the exclusive franchise tag on Bryant, but a team would have to give up two first-round picks if Dallas chooses not to match an offer sheet.
While the Cowboys have mapped out their plan for Bryant, they appear ready to allow the NFL's rushing champ, DeMarco Murray, to hit the open market. At the scouting combine, Jones said if Murray did not sign before free agency began it would not preclude his return, citing Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek as past examples.
The Cowboys thought they were close to a multiyear deal with Bryant last season, but he eventually changed agents from Eugene Parker to Kim Miale of Roc Nation and Tom Condon of CAA. The Cowboys had their first face-to-face meetings with Condon and Miale last week.
Bryant, 26, was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season -- but did not play in the game -- after matching his uniform number with 88 catches for 1,320 yards and a Cowboys single-season record 16 touchdown catches in 2014.
He nearly helped the Cowboys to their first NFC Championship Game since 1995 with a fourth-down catch at the Green Bay Packers' 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter only to see the grab controversially overturned by replay. Instead of having the chance for the go-ahead touchdown, the Cowboys never got the ball back and their season ended.
Since joining the Cowboys as a first-round pick in 2010, Bryant has been one of the NFL's most dynamic receivers.
In five seasons with the Cowboys, Bryant has caught 381 passes for 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns. No player in team history has more catches, yards or touchdowns than Bryant in the first five years of his career.
He became just the second Cowboy with three straight 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown catch seasons, joining Terrell Owens, who did it from 2006 to 2008. Bryant's 14 100-yard receiving games are tied for sixth most in team history. He reached 50 career touchdowns in 70 games, becoming the second-fastest player in team history to 50 receiving touchdowns -- Hall of Famer Bob Hayes did it in 66 games -- and the seventh fastest in NFL history.