IRVING, Texas – June has arrived, but Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones doesn't sound like someone who's feeling a lot of heat to sign Dez Bryant.
Granted, Jones spoke to reporters at the Cowboys' fourth OTA practice on Wednesday, still roughly six weeks removed from the July 15 deadline for Bryant to sign his franchise tender. The club still has more than a month to work out a long-term contract with its All-Pro receiver.
But if Bryant isn't playing on a multi-year contract by July 15, he'll have to sign the tender and finish 2015 on a one-year, $12.8 million contract. It's a prospect that didn't seem to trouble Jones at the outset of offseason practices.
"We've got him under the franchise tag," he said. "We know he'll be a Cowboy this year, and if he ends up playing out this year under the tag, then we'll go right back to work again next year."
Contract negotiations aren't allowed between a team and a player that has been given the franchise tag until the end of the regular season, which gives the Cowboys just this short window to work out a deal. It's entirely possible that deal will come before the deadline, but – like everything else with Bryant this offseason – it's a matter of waiting and seeing.
"Would we like to get a long-term deal on him? Of course we would. We'll work hard to do that, and I'm sure we'll make a push at some point and see if we can make it work," Jones said. "If not, then hopefully he'll understand that it's difficult to make a deal at this point, and he'll come on in and get ready to play."
It doesn't seem like the Cowboys front office needs to worry about that last point. Despite his ongoing contract negotiation, Bryant hasn't been able to stay away from team's Valley Ranch facility. He visited during the NFL draft last month, and he has been in to work out. He also caused a stir last week when he participated in individual drills at Thursday's OTA practice.
"I know it's hard for these guys to be away – probably him more than anybody, because he's such a competitor," Jones said. "I know if anybody wants to be out here, it's probably him."
That'd certainly seem to be the case, after Bryant went as far as to participate in practice despite a contract negotiation. It was the type of gesture that would leave an impression – even on a long-time veteran like Jason Witten.
"I think for everybody that understands the business, and then sees how he's showed his face and come around and been around the guys – that just kind of shows you and reiterates how passionate and how invested he is in this team," Witten said.
For all the uncertainty around Bryant's contract situation, there doesn't seem to be any uncertainty that he'll be ready to go once the deadline passes – whether that's with a deal or without one.