FRISCO, Texas – The offseason drama surrounding Dez Bryant took another turn on Thursday night, as inquiring minds try to decipher how the All-Pro receiver factors into the Cowboys' plans for the future.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones was in attendance for the presenting of the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award on Thursday.
Jones had plenty to say about his All-Pro tight end and the occasion of the evening, but he was also asked about Bryant – who has been the subject of much discussion since the end of the Cowboys' season.
"No one wants to compete and get after it more than Dez," Jones said. "At the same time, we all know this is a business where everybody has to be accountable. Certainly everybody knows that. That's a tough one. Certainly we're going to be grinding it out and trying to determine what is in the best interest of our business."
Consider that the latest of what have been a number of curious statements about Bryant from Cowboys executives this year. Back in January, Jones noted that Bryant's behavior can be distracting at times. At the Senior Bowl, he declined to elaborate on Bryant's future with the team, beyond stating that he is under contract for the coming season.
That contract is what has created so much conversation, though. Bryant endured arguably the worst season of his career in 2017, finishing with 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns in a season that was plagued by dropped passes and miscommunications.
By the end of a disappointing season, the struggles were enough to prompt questions about whether Bryant would be willing to take a pay cut on his contract – which is scheduled to pay him $12.5 million and count $16.5 million on the salary cap in 2018.
For his part, Bryant said all the way back in December that he had no intention of taking a pay cut. In their conversations about it to this point, Cowboys officials have been non-committal about the subject.
Hearing Jones talk about it on Thursday, however, it was easy to get the sense that the situation bears monitoring as the Cowboys get into the meat of their offseason.
"Dez understands this is a business," Jones said. "No one thinks more of Dez Bryant than starting at the top, Jerry, and certainly me, his teammates, Coach Garrett, Will McClay. We all have a tremendous amount of respect for Dez. That's one of the things that we're going to have to work through as we move into our future."