FRISCO, Texas –At long last, there's some clarity in this situation.
Regardless of the particulars of the conversation, the Cowboys have released Dez Bryant. The wide receiver room that looked so crowded last month is now without its largest presence.
The details of the past few months would probably make for a fantastic documentary, but they're irrelevant to the next question: what comes next?
Bryant leaves the Cowboys with a sizable hole in the lineup, given that he is the franchise's all-time leader in receiving touchdowns, with 73. Even during his recent dip in production, he was still averaging 50 catches and 678 yards per season over the last three years.
So, what does the Dallas receiver corps look like without Dez?
The anti-climactic answer is that it should look awfully similar.
That's why the signings of Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in March made so much sense. Hurns has the physical makeup and the experience to fill Bryant's traditional role as the Cowboys' 'X' receiver. Thompson fits a similar physical profile and has the speed to stretch any defense – making him a natural fill-in for the departed Brice Butler.
That leaves the rest of the receiver corps to carry on as usual. It stands to reason that Terrance Williams will resume his role as the Cowboys' 'Z' receiver, while Cole Beasley remains in the slot. Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown are still around, and their performance – not to mention injuries – may dictate how much playing time they get in 2018.
Things get interesting when you factor in the upcoming NFL draft, which will be held in Arlington, Texas, next week.
The Cowboys have been courting wide receivers throughout the offseason. To be frank, that's half the reason why so many people suspected that Bryant's time in Dallas was at an end. This front office has brought in first-round talents like Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore on official visits, and they've worked out a dozen others, from SMU's Courtland Sutton to Texas A&M's Christian Kirk to LSU's D.J. Chark and more.
Even with Dez out of the lineup, a top tier wide receiver doesn't seem like a need in 2018 – but it will be in the years to come. Because, if we're being blunt, there isn't a receiver on this team with a clear-cut future.
Only the first two years of Terrance Williams' four-year contract are guaranteed. So while releasing him in 2018 isn't an overly attractive option for the Cowboys, that won't be the case in 2019. Meanwhile, Beasley and Thompson are playing on one-year deals. Switzer and Brown are under contract through the 2020 season – though, considering they're late-round picks, those aren't exactly tough contracts to move on from.
Even Hurns, who was unquestionably the Cowboys' biggest signing of the offseason, is only playing on a two-year deal. So it's tough to determine his long-term outlook.
All of a sudden, it makes sense why this front office might want to draft a young, talented wide receiver – a guy who won't cost them a ton of money, and who will be under club control for four or possibly five years.
That'll be something for this team's decision-makers to weigh as they wrap up this year's draft meetings. Much like the secondary in 2017, the Cowboys have a chance to reshape their receiver corps.
Even with Dez Bryant no longer in the picture, this is a good enough receiver corps to win games with. But the Cowboys can make it better. On top of making it better, they can begin to shape a new long-term future. Will they?