Dallas Cowboys put franchise designation on wide receiver Dez Bryant

March 2, 2015

The NFL's franchise and transition player designations were announced today for the 2015 free agency signing period, with the Dallas Cowboys notably deciding to give the non-exclusive franchise tag to star wideout Dez Bryant.  Equally interesting was the Detroit Lions' decision not to franchise star defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, as he will now have the opportunity to test the free agent market.

The big dilemma in Dallas this offseason has been what to do about potential free agent stars Dez Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray.  Both had monster years and were vital to the team's success.

Of course, the reality with Murray is that finding another productive running back -- especially with the Cowboys current superior offensive line -- is far easier than finding another receiver with the unbelievable ball skills and athleticism that Dez Bryant possesses.

The fact that Murray has had a significant injury history probably factored into the Cowboys' rationale as well.

If the Cowboys cannot sign Bryant to a long term contract by July 15, then he will play next year for $12.823 million under the franchise tag.

Ideally for the Cowboys, both players will remain in Dallas, as the team could still sign Murray during his test of the free agent waters. The free agency period will begin at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 10.

Teams can designate one “franchise” player or one “transition” player among its veteran free agents.  The salary offer by a player’s club determines whether the franchise player designation is exclusive or non-exclusive.

An “exclusive” franchise player – not free to sign with another club – is offered the greater of the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the current year.

Non-exclusive franchise players shall be permitted to negotiate with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.

This year, no player was designated as an exclusive franchise player.  The following players were designated as non-exclusive franchise players:

  • Demaryius Thomas, WR (Denver)
  • Justin Houston, LB (Kansas City)
  • Stephen Gostkowski, K (New England)
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, DE (New York Giants)
  • Dez Bryant, WR (Dallas Cowboys)

The franchise tender amounts for Houston and Pierre-Paul would be $13,195,000 and $14,813,000, respectively.

One surprise was the Patriots' decision to franchise Gostkowski, as it is not so common to see a team take such action with a kicker.

However, Gostkowski was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season in 2014 and for the third time overall since joining the team as a fourth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Memphis. He led the NFL in 2014 with 156 total points.

Gostkowski also led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012, and 2013, becoming just the third player to lead the NFL in points in at least four seasons. He has connected on 86.8 percent of his regular-season field goal attempts since entering the NFL (243-of-280), the best field goal percentage in Patriots history.  He was 35-of-37 on field goals in 2014 for a 94.6 field goal percentage, the highest field goal percentage in a single season for the Patriots.

The Patriots issued the following statement on the use of their franchise tag: “Stephen has been extremely productive and a vital component to our success since joining our team in 2006.  Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.”

The franchise tender amount for kickers is $4,126,000.

A transition player is offered the greater of the average of the top 10 prior year salaries at the player’s position.

This year, only one player was designated as a transition player, the Miami Dolphins' tight end Charles Clay.

By designating Clay, an unrestricted free agent, as the team’s transition player, Miami has the right of first refusal to match any offer sheet he may receive from another team.

The transition tender amount for Clay is $7,071,000.

In addition, the Dolphins also released cornerback Cortland Finnegan and tackle Nate Garner.

“We have used this option available to us with Charles with the hope that he continues to remain a member of the Miami Dolphins,” said Miami Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey. “I also want to thank Cortland and Nate for their hard work during their time with the team.”

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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