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Answering the Dez Bryant question with recent history as a guide

From ESPN - January 9, 2018

FRISCO, Texas -- As the Dallas Cowboys figure out what went wrong in 2017 and what they hope can go right in 2018, they have to answer the Dez Bryant question.

Make no mistake, there is a question that needs to be answered.

Thats one, obviously, that well be looking at, executive vice president Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas two days after the season ended when asked about Bryants future.

Bryant is signed with the Cowboys through 2019. He is due base salaries of $12.5 million in 2018 and 19 and will count $16.5 million against the salary cap in each season. If the Cowboys cut Bryant, they can save $8.5 million against the cap and be in the clear, from a cap perspective, going into 2019, or they can designate him a post-June 1 cut and save $12.5 million but have him count $4 million against the 2019 cap. At the end of last season Bryant said he would not accept a pay cut.

Just as the Tony Romo question hung over the Cowboys last offseason, the Bryant question hangs over this one.

There was no way Romo was returning to the Cowboys in 2017. He was either going to retire or play somewhere else. The hang up came on the announcement. Originally, he was set to be released in March, but it did not happen until April.

Eventually, Romo joined CBS and became Jim Nantzs partner while passing up opportunities to continue to play.

The Bryant question is a little more difficult. The Cowboys had Dak Prescott on the roster last offseason. They dont have a No. 1 receiver ready to replace Bryant, who had 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns.

The last time the Cowboys jettisoned their No. 1 receiver came after the 2008 season when owner and general manager Jerry Jones laid out his plans via a table cloth and Sharpie to Terrell Owens, who caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Cowboys had Roy Williams ready to assume the top receiver spot. Midway through the 2008 season, the Cowboys gave up first-, third- and sixth-round picks to the Detroit Lions for Williams and a seventh-round pick. The Cowboys also signed Williams to a $45 million contract with $27 million guaranteed.

By the fifth game of the 2009 season, Williams was out as the top receiver after Miles Austin caught 10 passes for a franchise-record 250 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Austin would go on to catch 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns and be named to the Pro Bowl. The Cowboys signed him an extension before the 2010 season started.

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