FRISCO, Texas –The Cowboys decided to move forward without Dez Bryant 11 days ago. In two days, the NFL Draft presents a chance to add wide receiver depth.
But it's uncertain whether they'll find a true replacement for the franchise's all-time receiving touchdowns leader this week.
"I think we recognize that we've got a hole to fill with Dez (released)," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said during Tuesday's pre-draft press conference. "We actually in general know right now and have known that we probably won't have a what we call a pure "X" receiver to take the place of Dez. We know we won't have that, because even if we draft one that is an "X" receiver, as a rookie he's not going to come in here and give us that type of performance. You've got to assume that.
"We certainly know that we've got a chance to pick a player, but not necessarily in the first round or in the second round, that will have an opportunity to be in the mix that gives that player a better chance to be playing next year and us a chance to have somebody that's got some special skills, speed, that can help us out."
Addressing Bryant's release publicly for the first time since the move was made April 13, Jones said the timing to part ways was "as good as any" and the organization holds Bryant in high regard.
But Jones emphasized that "we need to move on knowing that we don't have Dez."
The Cowboys added veteran depth before Bryant's release, signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. The draft could produce another receiving option, and the Cowboys have done their homework on some of this year's top prospects, though Jones didn't commit to a range for potentially selecting one.
Jones was asked about Bryant's comments suggesting unnamed players and coaches might have played a role in the veteran receiver's release.
"It was not the case," Jones said. "Dez is a loved player on this team. Everybody had the right perspective in their respect for him. So that's as I know it and the sentiment that that might imply was not a factor in my decision at all."
Receivers typically have a longer adjustment to the NFL than other positions, partly because many don't play in pro-style offenses at the college level. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team must weigh NFL readiness versus potential when evaluating that position.
"We just had a good discussion in there about 30 minutes ago and one of the coaches asked, well, are we talking about which is going to be the best player to play Carolina (in Week 1)? Or which is going to be the best player over the next five years?" Jones said. "A little bit of that is both. You want both, but it is a difficult question because there are some that will take more time than others and probably will develop into a better player than a player if you're really picking a guy, which you shouldn't, to beat the Panthers. You ought to, overall, pick a player that's going to ultimately be the best player because you hope you're picking a player, especially in the first, second and third rounds, that will be in this organization for 10 years. The flip side is you certainly want them to come in and contribute right away."
It remains to be seen how the Cowboys address wideout this week. But one thing is certain: They've accepted life without Bryant, who remains a free agent.