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Cowboys "Think The World Of Dez" Though Receiver Balks At Franchise Tag Discussion

INDIANAPOLIS – There might not be much movement on the Cowboys' oft-discussed contract negotiations with Dez Bryant, but the conversation is certainly heating up.

After a month of relative quiet from both sides of the discussion, both the Cowboys' front office and Bryant himself commented on the situation Tuesday, as preparations begin to heat up for the 2015 NFL Combine.

The talking point began earlier in the day, when Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones was asked about placing the franchise tag on either Bryant or DeMarco Murray. The window for using the franchise and transitional tags on players opened on Monday, allowing NFL teams to protect one player from free agency in exchange for a lucrative one-year deal.

Jones said that the Cowboys would likely wait until "the midnight hour" of the March 2 deadline to decide what to do with the tag, but he did add that they were leaning toward tagging Bryant – who led the league in receiving touchdowns last fall.

"Right now, I'd say we'd probably be leaning that way, but it doesn't mean it won't change," he said.

Bryant has minced no words about expressing his desire for a long-term deal. The two-time Pro Bowler said back in November that he'd be "highly disappointed" if the Cowboys used the franchise tag to prevent him from seeking a long-term tag.

He upped the ante later on Tuesday, when he responded to a fan on Twitter, saying he wished the Cowboys were as committed to him as he was to the team.

Within the same day, Jones – who is partaking in NFL Competition Committee meetings in Indianapolis – disagreed with the star receiver's assessment.

"He's not feeling the right vibes, then, because we feel strongly about him," he said. "We've worked hard to do a long-term deal with him and we'll continue to work hard at it. If we don't get one, then it just shows him how much we care about him – we don't want to expose him."

The franchise tag would protect the Cowboys in that regard, because it would prevent Bryant from testing the open market. He'd be locked into a one-year contract worth roughly $12-13 million, depending on salary cap figures.

"It's not like it's a bad deal for the players. They get a lot of money guaranteed from Day 1 – it's certainly not a terrible deal for them," Jones said. "But who knows? We've still got weeks to go before we make that decision."

The reason Bryant, and assuredly plenty of other NFL players, might not be pleased is the lack of more financial security. The long-term deals signed by Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald in recent seasons came with $48.7 and $27 million in guarantees, respectively.

It remains to be seen how Bryant would respond to that situation, as some have suggested he might sit out of the Cowboys' offseason program if tagged. Jones said that prospect didn't trouble him if the team does decide to use the franchise tag on Bryant.

"No, I think Dez will be a pro and he'll play," he said.

The Cowboys still have two weeks until the March 2 deadline to decide if that's the route they want to take. Even if they do tag Bryant, they'll have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract. Until then, Jones reiterated that the process isn't about how the team feels about Bryant.

"We sure think the world of Dez," he said.

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