Emmitt & Dez: Two Holdouts From Two Very Different Eras
Dez Bryant’s on-the-field successes have earned him a plethora of comparisons to former receiving greats, but this week it was his latest off-the-field maneuver that had many likening him to Dallas Cowboys legendary running back Emmitt Smith.
No, Bryant isn’t about to attempt at replacing the departed Demarco Murray in the Dallas backfield. (And don’t mention the idea to Jerry Jones, either. He might actually want to experiment with it.)
Rather than run for yardage, Bryant is threatening to run for dollars this summer, as the Cowboys’ All-Pro wideout told Michael Silver this week that he is pondering sitting out the start of the regular season to force the Cowboy management to give him a long-term deal.
There are those who feel the need to compare this holdout to Emmitt’s standoff of 1993, when Smith missed the first two games of the regular season in a contract dispute. But, though Bryant and Smith play for the same franchise and the same owner, their respective situations couldn’t be more different than the other.
Emmitt’s progression from phenom to superstar went hand-in-hand with the Cowboys’ climb out of the NFL gutter in the early ‘90s. During his first three professional seasons, Smith was Offensive Rookie of The Year, a Pro Bowler, a rushing champ, and a Super Bowl champ. On top of that, Emmitt had already outplayed top-tier tailbacks Neal Anderson, Ricky Watters, and Thurman Thomas in postseason action.
Emmitt, you might say, had every right to demand that he be paid as the most valuable runner in the league. It wasn’t as if the other stars on the team weren’t getting paid. Michael Irvin had been awarded a new contract before the 1992 season, and Emmitt had every reason to believe that Jerry Jones was about to make Troy Aikman the highest paid player in NFL history. (Aikman eventually received a $50 million contract in December of 1993.)
It was the backend of an era when the star players were, unequivocally, getting paid at, or very near, the amount they wanted. In this case, Emmitt was determined to beat the advent of the salary cap, which would be effective starting in 1994, and cash in while the getting was good. He sat out two games, both of which the Cowboys lost, before getting his money, and duly returned to the starting lineup.
Bryant has been to the Pro Bowl and is a bona-fide All-Pro at his position, but has yet to help bring a championship to Dallas in five go-arounds. And last season, in his first two playoff games, Bryant’s production was noticeably down, as he totaled just six receptions for 86 yards against Detroit and Green Bay.
Unlike in Emmitt’s situation, the Cowboys are up against a salary-cap wall in 2015, something that Bryant’s teammates have taken into account. Tony Romo has taken a pay-cut to help lure more talent inside the building. And left tackle Tyron Smith signed off on a deal that paid him far less than he would have received on the open market.
In light of the recent sacrifices made by others, Dez seems to be placing himself in a despicable position by scoffing at the Cowboys’ franchise tag offer of $12.82 million.
One has to wonder what kind of position Bryant will be in should the Cowboys jump out of the gate by winning their first two games without him in the lineup.