Bryant's tough offseason continues

IRVING, Texas -- No one at the Dallas Cowboys' Valley Ranch training complex expects to see Dez Bryant on Monday when the defending NFC East champions begin their offseason program.

It's not the worst thing that's ever happened.

Bryant hasn't signed the one-year, $12.8 million franchise tag offer from the Cowboys, which means he's not under contract or required to attend anything the Cowboys do this offseason.

For now, it's no big deal. And it won't be a big deal deal if he misses all of the offseason training activities and minicamps as long as he's ready for training camp, though we're all going to spend a chunk of time talking about it.

Heck, Tony Romo missed the offseason last year recovering from back surgery yet he turned in one of his best seasons.

If Bryant starts missing time in training camp, it will become a much bigger issue because it affects his conditioning and his integration into the Cowboys' offense as it relates to any new additions to the offense.

It's not that Bryant won't be in shape and have some ridiculously low body-fat percentage, but we all know there's a huge difference between being in shape and being in football shape. Missing training camp seemingly always results in hamstring, quadriceps or groin pulls that linger all season.

This contract dispute between Bryant and the Cowboys isn't going away any time soon. You realize they've been working on it for nearly a year.

The Cowboys can blame only themselves. Bryant wants a long-term deal at market value, and the Cowboys have no interest in doing that. They want him to sign a team-friendly deal like those left tackle Tyron Smith and linebacker Sean Lee signed.

Bryant is among the top three receivers in the game. A team-friendly deal doesn't interest him.

The Cowboys' new financially responsible approach to paying players resulted in running back DeMarco Murray leaving for Philadelphia. Now, Bryant must haggle for his money, which must frustrate him to no end because he has been everything they want in a receiver.

He made the All-Pro team last season after catching 88 passes for 1,320 yards and a franchise-record 16 touchdowns. He has 41 touchdowns the past three seasons, and his season totals have increased in each of his five years in the league.

Coach Jason Garrett raves about Bryant's maturity as a player, from his route running to his practice habits. He's the only dude on the roster who touches every area of the locker room, from practice-squad players to defensive players to his fellow offensive starters.

He's clearly the soul of this team.

None of that, though, has persuaded the Cowboys to pay Bryant market value because the rules say they don't have to, and their actions suggest they still don't trust Bryant with more than $30 million in guaranteed cash.

He hasn't had an off-the-field issue since the summer of 2012.

Bryant, who changed agents from Eugene Parker to Roc Nation in October, has told anyone and everyone that he wants more control over his life, and the 26-year-old is certainly entitled to that.

It's the reason Bryant's attorney has sent David Wells, Bryant's longtime adviser, a cease-and-desist letter to end their business relationship, and reiterating the player's desire to revoke the power of attorney Wells has used to handle some of his affairs in the past.

Wells, as you would expect, has zero to do with negotiations between Bryant and the Cowboys, but the team believes Wells' presence will help Bryant fulfill the terms of a long-term deal.

Understand, if the Cowboys didn't want Wells involved with players such as Bryant and defensive tackle Josh Brent, then the former private investigator who refers to himself as a crisis management expert wouldn't be around the team.

This is an offseason of discontent for Bryant, and it's going to remain that way until he either gets the big-money deal he wants, or he signs the franchise tender and accepts that he's not getting a long-term deal.

Sooner or later, he'll be wearing a blue star on the side of his helmet. We just have no idea when it will happen.