FRISCO, Texas –The talk about Dez Bryant's future with the Cowboys began before their season was even over. Naturally, with their offseason underway, that talk is only going to get louder.
That was the obvious indication on Tuesday, as several members of the Cowboys' front office spoke to the media, with all of them fielding questions about their All-Pro receiver.
"That's one obviously that we'll be looking at," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones. "I know Dez had a frustrating year. It was frustrating to him."
Bryant finished his ninth NFL season with some of the most disappointing number of his career. His 69 catches were the lowest total of any season in which he has played all 16 games, and the same can be said for his six touchdowns. His average of 12.1 yards per reception was the lowest of his career.
"I think at times this year Dez did some good things. Other times like we've been talking about, it wasn't good enough," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
There were bright spots, but those frustrations seemed to follow the Pro Bowl receiver throughout the season. Bryant finished with a team-high 12 drops, and he told reporters last week that he had allowed outside distractions to affect his level of play.
"I let a lot of things get in the way that bothered me mentally," he said. "I wish I didn't. I feel like that affected, I know for a fact, some of my play."
Added Jones: "Obviously, tough situation for him when he's frustrated like that. I don't necessarily know that he performs at peak levels when he's distracted like that."
The Cowboys won't take the field for a practice, let alone a game, for several more months. So Bryant will have a bit of a reprieve in that regard. But with a $12.5 million salary and a $16.5 million hit on the salary cap in 2018, there still figures to be plenty of speculation about his status.
For his part, Bryant said last week that he has no intention of taking a pay cut – although the Cowboys have given no indication that they plan to ask him to do so.
This soon after the end of the season, it's far too early to know how any of that will play out. But as the Cowboys get into their evaluations for 2018, it's evident they'll be taking a hard look at Bryant's 2017.
"We need to have bigger plays," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "There's a lot into that, but we've got to get more from him. He's top player on our team."