The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly told the agent of Dez Bryant they will franchise the wide receiver by Monday's deadline.
Earlier Saturday, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told Fox Sports Southwest that the team was "eyeing" the franchise tag for the All-Pro wideout.
"I still think that it's probably, you know, would be a stretch to think that we would have something done by Monday and beat the franchise-tag deadline," Jones said. "Looks like we're eyeing a franchise tag on Dez, but certainly won't stop us from working hard to get a long-term deal."
Earlier this month, reports suggested the 26-year-old free-agent-to-be has "all but resigned himself" to accepting the Cowboys' franchise tag instead of a long-term deal. Bryant has said he plans on playing for the Cowboys for the duration of his career, but negotiations in late October on a long-term deal fell apart after Bryant fired agent Eugene Parker in favor of Tom Condon. Fox Sports Southwest reports the Cowboys' front office met with Condon this past week.
Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014, earning his second Pro Bowl trip and a first-team All-Pro selection for the first time of his five-year career.
Bryant's impeding free agency has been complicated by reports of a "controversial video," possibly showing Bryant involved in a 2011 incident in the parking lot of a Walmart. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network published a police report from the incident earlier this week that the Cowboys have reportedly been aware of and that has led the team to have fears about signing Bryant to a long-term deal.
The report filed by the Lancaster, Texas, police department details a scene that unfolded in a Walmart parking lot on July 11, 2011.
According to the report, an officer was dispatched around 6 a.m. to the parking lot to respond to an "unknown disturbance." Multiple vehicles registered to Bryant were in the lot before Bryant arrived, and the receiver arrived later in a different car, the report says. The officer then spoke with Bryant.
It was determined by police that there was no offense "after speaking with all parties involved," and "all parties were advised they were free to go," according to the report.
If the Cowboys do end up using their franchise tag on Bryant, that would allow running back DeMarco Murray to test free agency. Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards last season, breaking the Cowboys' record previously held by Emmitt Smith. Jones told Fox Sports Southwest that talks with Murray's agents have been "slow," but said the team would like to bring back the 27-year-old, four-year veteran.
"[Murray] is probably going to, you know, get some peace and see what's out in the market and then we'll talk and see. I do believe deep down he'd love to stay in Dallas.
"We'd love to keep him in Dallas; just see how things play out," Jones said.
The Cowboys finished 12-4 last season—their best since 2007—and made the divisional playoffs before losing to the Green Bay Packers.
- Mike Fiammetta