IRVING, Texas – The last public glimpse of Dez Bryant's then-unsettled contract situation came on June 18, when the star receiver had an impromptu heart-to-heart with Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones on the AT&T Stadium sideline while watching his teammates complete their final offseason workout before training camp.
Nearly a month later, Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones were in New York for another face-to-face visit Tuesday – this time with Bryant's representatives to help ensure the two sides would finalize a long-term deal before Wednesday's league deadline for franchised players to sign before the upcoming season.
Both parties worked into the early hours Wednesday morning – 3 a.m. to be exact. Just before the 3 p.m. deadline, Bryant's five-year, $70 million contract was signed and delivered.
"We had a long night last night," Jerry Jones said via conference call. "We were feeling pretty positive about this last night about three in the morning."
The contract, which includes $45 million in guaranteed money, gives Bryant multi-year security and validates his position as one of the league's elite playmakers.
It also reaffirms the team's stance for months and months: They always intended to make sure Bryant was a Cowboy for many years to come.
"We know Dez well, and as well as we know him, you see the kind of commitment that we've made here," Jones said. "That says everything about what we feel about him on and off the field. He's made tremendous strides since he came out of college relative to his complete maturation.
"There was never a doubt in my mind that we wanted a long-term deal with Dez. We just had to get the pot right."
They got it right just in time. Without a deal imminent Monday, Bryant tweeted that he'd hold out if a resolution wasn't reached by the deadline.
Asked whether he took Bryant's claims to heart, Jones said, "I take everything Dez says as genuine."
Fortunately, the Cowboys won't have to imagine more practices without their emotional leader. Bryant is signed and ready for training camp in two weeks as the Cowboys look to build on last year's 12-4 record and Divisional Round appearance.
"We know what he means to the team in many different ways," Jones said. "To his credit, he's evolved to a player that is indispensable to us, and that's why we franchised him. But this (contract) is by far the preferred way to go.
"This is a real cornerstone as we look to the pieces that we're putting together."
Asked if he considers Bryant the best receiver in the game, Jones said: "Let me put it like this. Dez and I have an argument – we're arguing the same thing, that he's the best. Dez and I will state our case that he's the best."
Wednesday's lucrative contract is proof.