Dez Bryant hasn't lost his leverage

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If Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys cannot reach terms on an long-term contract by Wednesday's deadline, don't assume Bryant loses all leverage.

Although the deadline creates a situation where Bryant can't sign a long-term deal, it does not preclude Bryant or other franchise-tagged players from signing a one-year contract to resolve differences or include a clause that would prohibit the Cowboys from using the franchise tag on him in 2016.

If he follows through with his threat to sit out games, it would cost him about $755,000 per week -- a seemingly illogical strategy under his franchise tender of $12.823 million. But remember: It's illogical only if the Cowboys never bend. Bryant's absence, however, could be a severe blow to a team with Super Bowl aspirations that already has lost running back DeMarco Murray to free agency and defensive end Greg Hardy to a four-game suspension. A slow start can cost a team a division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs, and, if Bryant were to miss time, Terrance Williams would become the No. 1 wide receiver on the roster. That's a significant drop-off.

So consider this hypothetical example: Bryant misses the first two games of the 2015 season, and the Cowboys start 0-2 against NFC East rivals New York and Philadelphia. Under such a scenario, Bryant could sign a one-year deal for $14.5 million to end the stalemate in Week 3, which means he'd make up the $1.51 million he'd lose out on by sitting out the first two games.

Bottom line: Bryant misses games, the team suffers and Bryant doesn't really lose money for games missed.

Again -- leverage.

And that's not the only tactic he could use. Bryant could also agree to return, but with a one-year contract that includes a clause ensuring the team will not tag him in 2016, giving him the leverage of becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

The no-franchise clause in a one-year contract negotiated after Wednesday actually could be the incentive that gets Bryant to training camp on time. And it's a strategy some franchise-tagged players have previously negotiated to return to their teams.

Absent such an agreement, Bryant could lose leverage if the Cowboys beat the Giants and Eagles to open the season. He could decide he had lost the gamble, take that two-game financial loss, sign his franchise tender and still make a little more than $11 million for the final 14 games. That's not the number he wanted, but he'd still be among the best-paid wide receivers for the 2015 season.

The important takeaway is that, even if nothing happens between now and Wednesday's deadline, the poker game remains in play, with Bryant still clinging to useful leverage.