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Jerry Jones Confident Cowboys Will Use Franchise Tag On Bryant If Necessary

IRVING, Texas -- If you were having second thoughts about buying that Dez Bryant jersey as a Christmas gift, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones eased them on Tuesday morning.

Bryant is nearing the end of his rookie contract, and his next one promises to be incredibly lucrative. With one regular season game remaining on his deal – not to mention the playoffs – Bryant is currently the NFL's leader in receiving touchdowns, with 14. Bryant is also over the 1,200-yard mark for the third-straight season, with one more week to add to that tally.

The type of contract he'll get has been a popular topic this season. It looked like the Cowboys were set to extend Bryant during training camp, but those talks fell through. Ever since, the 26-year-old has been making quite the case for himself as one of the NFL's top receivers.

"The key thing is, in agreements – and these are agreements – to be trite, two have to agree," Jones said Tuesday in an interview with 105.3 FM The Fan. "We've just got to come to an agreement there."

That's not exactly encouraging to hear, considering how long these contract negotiations have gone on. Bryant is reportedly seeking to become one of the game's three highest-paid receivers, while the Cowboys would love to sign a more team-friendly deal.

"We've got to really look at how we go forward managing our dollars," Jones said. "Every dollar that one player gets is not there for the next player or for another player. And so this thing has to be balanced out."

Given comments like that, Jones was asked bluntly if Bryant would wind up leaving the Cowboys in free agency – and his answer was emphatic.

"No, we have the franchise – for sure. Not at all," he said. "You're talking about Dez? No, we have the franchise alternative – which I thought everybody was aware of."

The Cowboys reserve that right to franchise Bryant – a move that would cost them somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million to secure him to a one-year deal. Bryant said in November that he'd be "disappointed" if the Cowboys opted for that course of action, but it would prevent him from testing the free agent market.

NFL teams can designate a player with their franchise tag twice, which means the Cowboys can hold on to Bryant until after the 2016 season without securing a long-term deal – though it's hard to imagine that won't happen sooner, rather than later.

In talking about Bryant, Jones brought up his memories of a lengthy contract negotiation with another big-name Cowboy – an experience he said he'd prefer not to repeat.

"I can take you pretty far back when we didn't lock up high-profile players – Emmitt Smith," he said. "Way back there, after we won the Super Bowl, we didn't lock him up there until two games into the next season. That wasn't a good experience."

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