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Dez Bryant and the Seahawks are a Perfect Fit; Can Seattle Pull It Off?

By Hayden Goldberg

With the losses of Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson to free agency, the Seahawks have a clear need for a new target for Russell Wilson. With the Draft in less than a week, it makes sense for the team to pick up a few receivers. However, with their recent tear down of their defense they have holes all over their roster and would benefit from taking a variety of defenders. Further, there have recently been a plethora of wide receiver busts in recent drafts. Therefore it would behoove the to add a veteran player who can make an impact immediately. One particular player fits this description: Dez Bryant.

Recently released by the Dallas Cowboys for a variety of reasons, he fits the Seahawks. Since free agency is all but over and teams have spent most of their money, Bryant will be cheap, and his recent decline in production makes him even more affordable. In order to find out how much he could cost, a few things need to be hashed out, starting with his value to the team.

Richardson gave Wilson a deep threat, Graham a red zone target. Bryant can easily fill the deep threat void, and while 5 inches shorter than Graham, there are worse replacements in the red zone. Even in the past three years where he has been declining, he averaged 4 catches in 36 games, twice as much as Richardson’s average (through his four-year career) of 2 catches/game in 49 games (although in his second season, he only played one game with one catch). With a full and productive season, Bryant could easily keep a safety out of the box on late downs, draw a linebacker out on early downs, fill the entire hole Richardson left and partially take some of Graham’s targets, in addition to providing some veteran leadership.

As mentioned, he has been in a recent decline. He hasn’t hit 1,000 yards in three seasons, and since his career best 16 touchdowns four seasons ago, his high has been 8 TD’s. This is not to say that he won’t hit 1,000 yards or get double digit touchdowns again but is something the team needs to consider. Adding to this, he is 29, so his prime may be dwindling, if he is still in it at all, meaning the Seahawks need to be careful when considering the length of the contract.

They also need to consider cap space, as they don’t have excessive amounts of unused money. The approximately 8.8 million they have may seem like a decent chunk, but football is a violent sport. They need money to sign free agents in case someone gets hurt, sign players from their practice squad, and so on. Further, draft picks count against the cap, so they will almost certainly have to restructure some players contracts in order to sign picks.

Focusing on Bryant, the team could give itself some more money by restructuring or outright releasing Cliff Avril’s and his contract. He has said he wants to continue to play, but with so many unknowns, the Seahawks can’t afford his 7.5 million dollar salary this season, even if they don’t sign Bryant. Reducing it 3ish million this season with incentives for playing time seems like a good (read: realistic) compromise.

If they did this, they would have approximately 14 million to spend. In free agency (when the cash well was still wet) mid-tier receivers like Richardson (4 years, 40 million), Marquis Lee (4 years, 34 million), and Michael Crabtree (3 years, 21 million) all cashed in. Somewhere between or slightly above Crabtree’s deal makes sense for Bryant. Think three years 23 million, minimal guarantees in the second third years, with salary escalators and/or incentives that increase guaranteed money later in the contract.

This should make everyone happy. The Seahawks have a way to get out of the contract if Bryant doesn’t perform well, his antics show up again, or he gets hurt. Bryant still gets some money, has the ability to earn extra, and will be 32 when the contract runs out allowing him to sign another contract. In the end, this should resemble Richard Sherman’s new contract with the San Francisco 49ers, where he gets paid based on his production.

The other option is for Bryant to sign a 1-year, prove it deal worth 5 to 7 million with incentives. These would likely be classified as Not-Likely-To-Be-Earned, which basically means they don’t count against the cap. This would hopefully allow him to have a productive season and turn it into a big payday next year (think Terrelle Pryor’s 1 year, $1.6 million deal with the Cleveland Browns turning into a $6 million payday with the Redskins).

Had Bryant been released earlier, he would have made significantly more money, either in long term or prove it deal, in a contract from any team. But, with the draft next week, the likeliest scenario is teams waiting until after the draft to sign him.

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