IRVING, Texas – It's officially July 15 – coined by clever social media punsters as "Dezline Day."
The deadline itself is no joke: The Cowboys and Dez Bryant have until 3 p.m. Central Time today to work out a long-term contract, or the All-Pro receiver must play the 2015 season on the one-year guaranteed franchise tag he has elected not to sign since March.
On Monday, Bryant declared via Twitter that "he will not be there" (presumably meaning the start of training camp in two weeks and possibly even regular-season games) if he doesn't sign a new contract by today's league deadline.
Can the Cowboys and Bryant reach a deal that pleases both parties and prevents any potential training camp drama?
Bryant's representatives resumed talks with the club during the last week of June, a sign of optimism if not substantial progress. Both sides figure to continue discussions today prior to the 3 p.m. deadline with the goal of reaching a resolution.[embeddedad0]
Whether there's a deal or no deal, Bryant's time with the franchise tag to date has been, by far, the most compelling – and the most complex – of any in team history.
The Cowboys have franchised three other players since the league adopted the tag in 1993: offensive tackle Flozell Adams (2002), safety Ken Hamlin (2008) and pass rusher Anthony Spencer (2012 and 2013). Spencer signed his consecutive tag tenders fairly quickly in the offseason and never received a long-term deal. Adams played the entire 2002 season on the one-year tag tender and signed a long-term deal a couple of months later.
Only Hamlin got a new contract by July 15 – *on *July 15, specifically.
A deal with Bryant appeared close last fall but never materialized, and negotiations appeared to grow quiet for much of the offseason. Without signing the $12.8 million tag tender, Bryant chose to skip the team's voluntary offseason program, organized team activities and minicamp that ran April through June. He stopped by Valley Ranch periodically to work out or visit with teammates and staff, and he participated in individual drills during one of the nine OTAs.
On the final day of the team's mandatory minicamp, Bryant – who wasn't required to show up because he wasn't under contract – rejoined his teammates to watch practice. He also had a long, amicable discussion on the AT&T Stadium sideline with team owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
The Cowboys have publicly expressed their desire to sign Bryant long term but have acknowledged the complexity of the negotiations.
In 2014 Bryant set a single-season club record with 16 touchdown catches and topped 1,000 yards (1,320) for the third time in his five-year career. He's seeking a deal that places him among the league's highest-paid receivers.
A deal has to happen by 3 p.m. today, or it must wait until 2016.