Dez Bryant will sign a one-year deal with the Saints days after working out for the team, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Bryant joins a New Orleans team that is 7-1 and atop the division, features one of the league’s most potent offenses that includes Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, but was lacking a consistent No. 2 receiver.
NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan reports that Bryant is expected to be in New Orleans on Thursday, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that Bryant signed a one-year deal to prove himself ahead of free agency in the spring.
The Cowboys released Bryant in April after eight seasons, in part because his cap hit for 2018 was $16.5 million and in part because he was no longer producing like one of the NFL’s best wide receivers. He’s a better fit in New Orleans’ scheme, where he won’t be the primary — or even secondary or tertiary — target, but a cog in an offense that can beat you in a multitude of ways.
At the time of his release Bryant was understandably unhappy with the decision. And after the first week of the season, Bryant took to Twitter to say that he’d love to play for the Redskins or Patriots. Neither was interested — the Redskins signed Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman, and the Patriots traded for Josh Gordon.
In early October, Bryant posted a video to social media that showed him working out. And in response to a question posed to him on Twitter, Bryant said he’s rather return to the Cowboys, but “if not I’ll be ready to play somewhere else.” It’s taken about a month, but “somewhere else” appears to be New Orleans, where he goes from unemployed to a member of one of the NFL’s hottest teams.
Bryant adds depth to a unit that includes world beater Michael Thomas and has seen more targets for rookie Tre’Quan Smith, who saw an increased role when Ted Ginn went down with an injury. But Bryant isn’t — and never was — a burner. He’s not a take-the-top-of-the-coverage receiver, but he can make contested catches and dominate on short and intermediate routes.
Or, as TheMMQB.com’s Andy Benoit put it on Twitter: “All the (Saints) have done is replace one slow wide receiver (Cameron Meredith) with a slightly better slow wide receiver (Dez Bryant).”
Regularly mentioned as one of the league’s best wide receivers for most of his career, Bryant blamed injuries and a predictable offensive game plan for his pedestrian 2017 season (69 catches, 838 yards, six touchdowns). The year before, when the Cowboys went 13-3, was better; he was No. 31 in total value among all wideouts in 2016, according to Football Outsiders, and he played in just 13 games and had 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. In ’17, Bryant fell to 72nd, just ahead of teammate Cole Beasley, who counted $4.5 million against the cap in 2017 compared to Bryant’s $17 million cap number.
When asked Wednesday about Bryant joining the Saints, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spoke highly of his former player.
“Dez is a great player,” he said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s Clarence Hill Jr. “Really happy for him and that opportunity. I know he will help their team. I happy for Dez. Happy he has a chance to finish his career the right way and have a big impact”
Shortly after he was released, Bryant reportedly turned down a three-year, $21 million deal from the Ravens this spring and did the same when the Browns reportedly offered him less than $5 million a year. There was also the matter of Bryant wanting to play for a better team, according to PFT. And now, it appears, he has finally gotten his wish.
And in three weeks, the Saints — and Bryant — head to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football.
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