Mark Tenally/Associated Press
It’s no secret that with Corey Coleman gone and questions surrounding Josh Gordon and Antonio Callaway, the Cleveland Browns are interested in free-agent wide receiver Dez Bryant. The question late last week was whether Bryant was interested in the Browns.
For an unemployed football player in the middle of August, Bryant appears to be remarkably comfortable. Soon after Browns general manager John Dorsey told reporters that Bryant wasn’t returning the team’s phone calls, the 29-year-old former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowler casually tweeted that while he “wouldn’t mind playing for the Browns,” he just wants “to be right first.”
Clearly behind the proverbial steering wheel, Bryant nonchalantly tweeted a couple of hours later that he’d start his “visits”—yes plural—next week and that he planned on meeting with Dorsey.
Next week has become this week. There’s no take-backsies on the Coleman trade, Gordon remains absent while apparently addressing his mental and physical health, and the jury’s out on the rookie Callaway as he deals with the aftermath of a citation for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license.
When Bryant meets with Browns brass, he’ll likely be under the impression Dorsey is desperate for his services.
But should that be the case?
Tony Dejak/Associated Press
An argument can be made that potential concern regarding Gordon and Callaway is exactly why the Browns need Bryant, but it’s more complicated than that. Bryant’s persona could be a problem for a rebuilding Browns team.
There was the alleged assault on his mom, the questions over an alleged assault by an unidentified man on his girlfriend in a Walmart parking lot, the incident with the Texas rental house he allegedly destroyed, the 10-game suspension at Oklahoma State, the time Deion Sanders publicly cut ties with him, the reported scuffle with Lil Wayne at a Miami nightclub.
This is a guy who at one point in his adult life felt the need to say that he’s “done with domestic abuse.”
Bryant mentioned last week he wasn’t “right,” whatever that means. Maybe he was referring to his physical conditioning, but is that any better? Why in the world wouldn’t Bryant be “right” at this point? And if he isn’t, why in the world would the Browns want to introduce him to an impressionable locker room?
Bryant has also been prone to sideline tantrums, and he often complains when he doesn’t feel he’s being targeted enough. New Browns receiver Jarvis Landry is a catch machine and undoubtedly the focus of the passing game. How would Bryant deal with being Landry’s sidekick? Would he pressure quarterback Tyrod Taylor or even rookie No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield to look his way more often? And how would that affect Gordon and/or Callaway?
Ron Schwane/Associated Press
That potentially toxic atmosphere might be worth the risk in some cases, but Bryant probably wouldn’t put this Browns team over the top anyway. Bryant is 29 going on 40. He hasn’t been consistently productive since he was an All-Pro in 2014 and has missed 10 games because of injuries in the last three seasons. That ’14 campaign marked the last time he caught 55 percent of the passes thrown his way or came close to 1,000 yards.
The Browns could use veteran help in the receiving corps, but plenty of teams can say the same thing and yet Bryant has been a free agent for four months. That says something, even if he remains confident regarding his job prospects.
Cleveland would be better off playing it safe with the recently released Brandon LaFell, who in his last two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals was just about as productive as Bryant was in his last two campaigns in Dallas. Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews are also available and less poisonous.
The long-suffering Browns might finally have something brewing as they complete an extended rebuild. Adding a potentially corruptive influence like Bryant could easily do more harm than good, and even if he behaves himself, he’s unlikely to make enough of an impact on the field to justify the dice roll.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.