Wednesday was the deadline for all player’s given the franchise tag to sign a long-term deal.
The deadline came and went yesterday, and when the dust settled all major players aside from Jason Pierre-Paul signed. Justin Houston, a pass rusher for the Kansas City Chiefs, signed a six-year $101 million deal, the biggest contract for a linebacker in NFL history.
The two deals that everyone is more interested in are for the two wide receivers, Dallas’s Dez Bryant and Denver’s Demariyus Thomas. Both signed nearly identical five-year $70 million deals, Bryant’s with $45 million guaranteed, Thomas’s with $43.5 million guaranteed. There were four observations I had from what went down wednesday.
The first observation I had is this: I told you so. Here’s something I wrote on Monday after Dez Bryant threatened to sit out games: https://goallinegazette.com/2015/07/13/dallas-cowboys-dez-bryant-threatens-to-sit-out-games/
Bryant’s threat proved to be empty. The Cowboys were able to sign him for $2 million less a year than Calvin Johnson, even though Bryant had better production last season. Like I said Monday, deadlines have a way of making both sides more reasonable, and that’s just what happened today. The Cowboys have their top receiver locked up for his prime years now.
The second observation was the fact that the two deals for Dez and Demariyus were nearly identical. Both teams were in similar situations. They had two top talents at the wide receiver position. They wanted to sign both to long-term deals. They also both wanted to be cautious about how much they paid each, because both have young talent that they want to be able to sign down the line. The Cowboys want to keep their young offensive line together, particularly second-year guard Zack Martin, who was a Pro Bowler in his rookie season. The Broncos’ top pass rusher, Von Miller, is entering a contract year, and will likely be given the franchise tag at the end of next year. Neither team wanted to let deals made with these receivers affect their ability to resign their other young players down the road.
Also remember that earlier this week, there were reports of collusion between the Broncos and Cowboys. Notice that these deals were exactly the same, yet they were signed within about an hour of each other. The NFLPA said on Monday that if the two players didn’t sign long-term deals by today, they would move forward with the collusion charges. However, the similarity of these contracts shows that there was likely collusion not only between the two teams, but likely between the two agencies that represent each player. And by the way, this isn’t a bad thing, as it creates a fair market value for two players who are at almost equal levels at this point in their careers.
The third observation I had comes from a unique perspective I have of each player. I live in Denver, and I go to school in Dallas, so I see how each fan base view these respective players. Dez Bryant and Demariyus Thomas are essentially the same player. They were both drafted in 2010, Thomas 22nd overall, Dez 24th. Demariyus has played 69 regular season games in his career, and has compiled 351 receptions for 5,317 yards and 41 touchdowns in five seasons. Bryant has 381 catches for 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns in 75 career games. Each has played a full 16 games over the last three seasons. Thomas is 6’3 229; Bryant is 6’2 220. They’re both big, physical receivers who are excellent at using their unique combination of size and speed.
However, Bronco fans are nowhere near as supportive of Demariyus Thomas as Cowboy fans are of Dez Bryant. Bronco fans are extremely hesitant to put Demariyus in the same class as Bryant and Calvin Johnson. They will never hesitate to bring up the fact that Thomas didn’t seem to give 100% effort against the Colts in a playoff loss last year. The best explanation I can give for why is this: Cowboy fans have another scapegoat in Tony Romo, whereas Bronco fans worship at the feet of Peyton Manning, and need to find another scapegoat when things go wrong. Both have given almost identical production throughout their careers, and Bryant has definitely had more off-the field/immaturity issues than Thomas has; yet Cowboy fans appreciate Dez as a top-of-the-line receiver, and Bronco fans like to criticize Demariyus. The explanation that makes the most sense is that the Cowboys have Tony Romo, Jerry Jones, and a terrible defense to point the finger at for any failures, while Bronco fans would rather kill a family member than blame Peyton Manning or John Elway for anything, even after a horrible performance by Manning against the Colts in the postseason last year. It’s a lot easier for Bronco fans to blame John Fox, or Demariyus Thomas for their shortcomings.
The last observation I have is not only because of these three deals, but also for the big contracts that have been signed over the last few years. If you can play quarterback at a high level, if you can protect the quarterback, if you can tackle the quarterback, or if you can catch the football thrown by the quarterback, you can make a lot of money in the National Football League. Teams have made it clear, that quarterbacks, receivers, left tackles, and pass rushers are the most valuable positions in this league. The Dolphins and Bengals gave fat contracts to their quarterbacks who have all kinds of question marks, yet the Patriots refused to overpay cornerback Darrelle Revis, despite being a vital piece to their Super Bowl run, and the Seahawks traded away one of the best centers in the league for a tight end coming off a bad year. There are four positions where the money is in football, and today’s deals reflected that in a big way.
Note: All stats are courtesy of ESPN