INDIANAPOLIS — Jerry Jones has not directly discussed the matter with Dez Bryant.
But the Cowboys owner is aware of his longtime receiver’s push to return to the league. And it’s fair to say Jones has given the idea of a reunion some thought.
“I have been thinking about it a lot in the shower,” Jones said Thursday from Indianapolis, aboard the Cowboys bus at the NFL scouting combine. “I have been. I have been. I am not dismissing it. I don’t want to sound like it should be dismissed by saying that.
“I am thinking about it.”
The Cowboys released Bryant in April 2018 after eight seasons. Their 2010 first-round selection racked up 531 catches for 7,459 yards and a franchise-record 73 touchdowns. Tight end Jason Witten, who unretired in 2019 to return to the Cowboys, trails Bryant by just one score.
Bryant hasn’t played an NFL game since Dec. 31, 2017. In his final season with the Cowboys, he caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six scores. His 12.1 yards per reception marked a career low. Bryant caught 52.3% of targets from quarterback Dak Prescott that season as Dallas missed the playoffs.
Bryant has criticized teammates as well as then-head coach Jason Garrett and then-offensive coordinator Scott Linehan since his departure. But Jones said he doesn’t remember the breakup as messy.
“The very best of Dez is what I remember,” Jones said. “The very best of it. I remember a lot of good things. Far overshadows the negatives as a player.”
Still, a potential reunion would prompt questions. How productive can the 31-year-old be nearly three years removed from professional competition? He signed with the New Orleans Saints in November 2018 but tore his Achilles during his first practice. That raises another question: What kind of shape is Bryant in? Has he fully recovered?
“All of that counts,” Jones said.
Bryant has posted to social media multiple times saying he wanted to improve his mental health before returning to the league. He has also posted, more frequently in recent weeks, extensive video of workouts. He has invited defensive backs to face him at Dallas-area gyms that include a facility on the same campus as Cowboys headquarters. Last week, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes — fresh off a Super Bowl win — threw to Bryant as Bryant ran routes.
Even Chiefs coach Andy Reid saw the film, noting this week at the combine: “It looked like he was slinging it around pretty good.”
The Cowboys could draft a receiver in what’s described as one of the deepest classes at the position in years. But otherwise, they don’t seem to need the depth that Bryant might provide. Vice president Stephen Jones said Monday the team would focus first on keeping players from its 2019 roster.
Wide receiver Michael Gallup took huge strides in his second year, notching 66 catches for 1,107 yards. Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb are both set to become free agents—but new coach Mike McCarthy and Jones were adamant they aim to re-sign both. Cooper has caught 132 balls for 1,914 yards and 14 touchdowns in 25 games since Dallas dealt its 2019 first-round draft selection for him. The four-time Pro Bowler is just 25 years old.
Cobb caught 55 passes for 828 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, his first year with the Cowboys. Previously, he played eight seasons under McCarthy in Green Bay. The reunion would give McCarthy a player who understands the two schemes he’s looking to meld.
“I thought he had a heck of a season last year in Dallas,” McCarthy said of Cobb Wednesday. “I was very impressed with his video.”
Added Jones: “It would be an advantage to have him here, with his background.”
So why even give thought—in the shower, or otherwise—to a Bryant return?
“Because he is an outstanding player,” Jones said.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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