Should Dez Bryant Be Paid Like A Top Five Wide Receiver?
Since Dez Bryant emerged on the scene in 2010, he showed potential to become a top five wide receiver in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys selected Bryant with the 24th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Before selecting Bryant, the Cowboys already knew they would be taking a chance on a exceptional player with off the field issues. Bryant was suspended his last season at Oklahoma State for lying to NCAA investigators. Many teams would usually pass on a player with off the field issues, but the Cowboys took a chance on Bryant, and it seems to be paying off. Over the past two seasons, Bryant has accumulated 25 touchdown catches, 185 receptions, and 2,615 yards, which is among the top wide receivers in the NFL. The 2013 Pro Bowler has often been compared to former Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin (who also wore #88).
Lets see where Bryant ranks among the top five wide receiver salaries of the 2014 season. Starting at #5 is Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who is set to make approximately $11.1 million dollars this season. The 6'5 Jackson has been a large target during his career with the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jackson has never eclipsed 80 receptions in a season, meanwhile Bryant on the other hand has had two straight seasons of at least 92 receptions (92 in 2012 and 93 in 2013). Jackson has also never had a season with more than 9 touchdowns, while Bryant has had 9,12, and 13 the past three seasons. When we take a look at Jackson's career with the San Diego Chargers (before he received his large contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), his career highs in the major categories for receivers were, 68 receptions (2009), 1,167 yards (2009) and 9 touchdowns (2009 and 2011). Clearly Bryant has put up the bigger numbers compared to Jackson's earlier years in San Diego and current time in Tampa Bay.
Next on the list at #4 is Kansas City Chiefs' wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Bowe is set to make approximately $11.2 million dollars for the 2014 season. Bowe is similar to Bryant in the fact that they have spent their entire careers with the same team up to this point, but the stats show many differences. Bowe has been on a steady decline since the 2010 season, when he had career highs in receiving yards (1,162) and touchdowns (15). Injuries are a major factor in extending a player beyond their current contract. Throughout their careers, Bowe has played 103 games in seven seasons and Bryant 59 games in four seasons (not including the 2014 season). Both players proved themselves quite durable for their respected franchises. Bowe has not been able to come close to his career high numbers from 2010, accumulating only 13 touchdowns the past three seasons (15 in 2010) and only being able to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark once the past three seasons(1,159 in 2011, 801 in 2012, and 673 in 2013). Bowe has proved himself to be a good receiver, but he is not in Dez Bryant's class of talent.
At #3 on the list of highest paid wide receivers for the 2014 season, we have Miami Dolphins' wide receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace is set to make $12 million dollars for the 2014 season. Wallace has been a speedy deep ball threat in Pittsburgh with the Steelers before receiving his 5 year $60 million dollar contract to play with the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Wallace is among smaller receivers at an even 6ft and 200 pounds, meanwhile Bryant is larger and fuller at 6'2 and 220 pounds. Wallace has been known throughout his career as a "deep ball threat", averaging 21.0 yards per catch in 2010 and career long receptions of 82 and 95 yards. Bryant is seen more as an "all around" receiver, his career high in average yards per catch was 15.0 yards in 2012 and his longest reception was 85 yards. Bryant blows Wallace away in the category of yards per game, Bryant has had two straight seasons of at least 77 yards per game (86.4 in 2012 and 77.1 in 2013), on the other hand, Wallace has not been able to average over 70 yards per game since 2011 when he averaged 74.6 yards per game. Wallace has declined over the past two seasons, averaging under 60 yards per game (55.7 in 2012 and 58.1 in 2013). Over the past two seasons, Wallace has failed to reach the 1,000 yard mark (836 yards in 2012 and 930 in 2013, also don't blame the quarterbacks, the best of receivers get open). Wallace has also had 8 or less touchdowns the previous 3 seasons (8 in 2011 and 2012 and 5 in 2013). As previously stated, Bryant dominates in the touchdown category, with 9 touchdowns in 2011, 12 touchdowns in 2012 and 13 touchdowns in 2013 and is not showing any signs of slowing down. Bryant is clearly on the rise and is the all around better receiver than Wallace who has struggled in Miami and those struggles may continue.
Next on the list at #2 highest paid wide receivers for the 2014 season is long time Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has been one of the most consistent receivers in the league for 11 years (2014 is Fitzgerald's 11th season) and is a probable candidate to make his way to Canton when his career comes to an end. Along with being a great receiver, Fitzgerald is a great locker room presence and great overall guy off the field. The majority of NFL teams salivate at the sight of a talented player with the characteristics like Fitzgerald's, because they are very hard to come by nowadays. With the current state of the NFL, experiencing problems with domestic violence(Ray Rice and Greg Hardy) and possible child abuse cases (Adrian Peterson), the league needs more players like Fitzgerald. Now lets get to the stats, from 2004-2013 Fitzgerald has been able to overcome the 1,000 yard mark six times, with the most being in 2008 season, when he exploded for 1,431 yards. Fitzgerald has also been able to break 1,400 yards four times (2005,2007, 2008 and 2011). There is no doubt Fitzgerald has been among the top receivers in the league for a decade, but he has also been on a decline the past two seasons, failing to reach the 1,000 yard mark with 798 receiving yards in 2012 and 954 in 2013. Fitzgerald has the edge regarding receiving yards throughout his career but Bryant has been more consistent as of the past few seasons. Fitzgerald has been "o'l reliable" for Arizona, playing in 156 games in 10 seasons (not including the 2014 season). Fitzgerald and Bryant have very similar statistics in the category of receiving touchdowns, both having career highs of 13 touchdowns in a season. Fitzgerald has been able to accumulate 87 touchdowns in his prestigious 10 year career, while Bryant has obviously not played as many seasons as Fitzgerald, but is on his way to stardom with 40 touchdowns in 4 seasons (not including the four touchdowns in the 2014 season). Lastly, Fitzgerald has been able to haul in over 80 receptions in 7 of his 10 seasons as a member of the Arizona Cardinals, including career highs with 100 in 2007 and 103 in 2005. Bryant has proved himself as a top receiver posting back to back seasons of 90+ receptions, over 1,200 yards and 12+ touchdowns. Fitzgerald has clearly had a better career up to this point and has a legitimate shot of making it to Canton when his career is over, but Bryant is on the rise and shows flashes of greatness out on the field on sundays. If Bryant continues on this path he has an opportunity to put up better numbers than Fitzgerald when it is all said and done.
At #1 on the list, arguable one of the best wide receivers to ever put on pads, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. Johnson is set to top wide receivers in salary this season with $16.2 million dollars. The 4x Pro Bowler has been wrecking havoc in the NFL since he entered the league as a rookie in 2007. At 6'5, Johnson is among the larger receivers in the game and is blessed with freakish athletic ability at that size. Prior to the Cowboys vs Lions game in week 8 of the 2013 season, Bryant was on the record saying "I believe I can do whatever he can do. I think it's just a pride thing. When it comes to football, just being on the field, it's a mindset and having a mentality. I honestly believe when I'm there, I'll be feeling like there's nothing I can't do. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I'm going to do it.I always feel like there's more. I think that's just a mindset you're supposed to have." Johnson made it his mission to go out there and prove Bryant wrong. Johnson ended the game with 329 receiving yards(2nd most all-time in a single game) and a touchdown, while Bryant had a quality game himself with 72 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Johnson has been on another level his entire career, breaking the record for most receiving yards in one season with 1,964 yards in 2012. Johnson has been the definition of consistent in his illustrious career with the mediocre Detroit Lions, being selected to the NFL First Team All-Pro 3x and leading the NFL in receiving yards 2x. Since the 2011 season, Johnson has averaged 100.6 receptions per season, 1,712.3 receiving yards per season, and 11.0 touchdowns per season. Bryant falls short in each of these categories except touchdowns, with 82.6 receptions per season, 1,181 receiving yards per season and 11.3 touchdowns per season. There is a reason Johnson tops the list of highest paid wide receivers, and there is no doubt that when his career is over he will be looked at as possibly the greatest wide receiver to ever step foot on a football field. Bryant loses this battle but seriously who wouldn't?
After evaluating the top five paid wide receivers for the 2014 season, it is clear that Dez Bryant SHOULD be paid as a top five wide receiver after the 2014 season. Bryant is an emotional team leader for the Dallas Cowboys and gives his all every time he steps on the field. He is a major competitor and loyal teammate, always having the backs of his teammates. Bryant constantly defends his quarterback, Tony Romo, who usually takes a beating from the press. Along with putting up top statistical numbers, he has a ton of heart and is determined to help the Cowboys win in any possible way. Bryant has been on the record saying "I want to be a Cowboy for life", clearly making Jerry Jones and the rest of the Cowboy's staff overjoyed. I predict that Bryant will give the Cowboys somewhat of a "hometown discount" but will definitely be paid among the top wide receivers in the NFL.