By: Brady Gardner
Just a few years ago, Dez Bryant was one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. Soft hands, breakneck speed, outstanding range, and so many other attributes that made the former Dallas Cowboy a cornerback’s nightmare.
But times have changed for Bryant. Disagreements in Dallas sent Bryant to free agency, but unlike the attention top-tier talents often get when they hit the market, Bryant went months unsigned. Franchises were been hesitant to bring in the receiver, wary of the baggage carried after the breakup with the Cowboys and the contract demands of the 29-year old.
Three days after his 30th birthday earlier this November, Bryant finally found his destination: the New Orleans Saints. It was a one-year contract for $1.25 million, a measly sum compared to what the receiver was demanding in the offseason. But it was something. It was a stepping stone for Bryant; a platform to prove his worth to teams nationwide.
Until it wasn’t.
Just two days into his tenure with the Saints, Bryant tore his Achilles tendon, sending him to the Injured Reserve list for the rest of the year. Just like that, his season was over before it began.
This injury was just about the worst possible scenario for Dez Bryant. Fans often argue that football players make enough money as it is, and getting greedy with the prospects of a major contract is just plain insulting. But these athletes don’t work for forty years like the average American. If they want sustainable wealth for their own lives and their children after them, they need these big contracts, and Bryant may have just lost his opportunity for one.
Let’s not forget that this was about more than just money for Bryant. After an extended period away from the game, this was his chance to reintroduce himself as an elite receiver in the NFL. It was the beginning of the second act in his career, a fresh start on a new team, and an escape from his ugly days in Dallas. However, with one misstep in practice, these opportunities are lost for Bryant, and his career may be as well.
While the majority of the devastation will be felt by Bryant, the New Orleans Saints offense is a victim of this misfortune as well. In a conference bulging with deep attacking groups, the Saints needed Bryant to keep up with the likes of the Rams and Vikings, who both possess a collection of weapons that make fantasy owners drool. The Saints’ offense is good, but not good enough to compete with the cream of the crop in the NFC.
Instead of benefitting from the talents of Dez Bryant, the Saints will have to resort to an aging Brandon Marshall, who is far removed from his best days in the league. This downgrade puts the Saints one level below the conference’s elite offenses despite the impressive season Drew Brees is having. And who knows just how many more seasons like this Brees may have left in him? This was the Saints’ year to really go for it, and they demonstrated this urgency by signing Bryant, but losing the receiver may also mean a year lost for both Brees and the Saints.
Love him or hate him, it would be cold-hearted not to sympathize with Bryant and the Saints. Taking the receiver’s dodgy past out of the equation, this was a player who was just trying to make some money before his best years are behind him, and a team taking a chance with a difficult playoff run on the horizon. This injury was devastating for both parties, and one that could potentially derail Bryant’s career, and the Saints’ chances at postseason success.
Dez Bryant needed the Saints, and the Saints needed him. But football is a cruel game, and as fate would have it, fans will only be able to imagine what could have been had Bryant been available for the remainder 2018 season.