Unlike an exclusive tag, a non-exclusive franchise player may negotiate with other teams but if the player signs an offer sheet with another team, the original team has the right to match the terms of that offer. If the team does not match and loses the player, that team is entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones was hoping to work out a new contract for Bryant, admitting last week that he was "not that excited" about tagging the pass-catcher "because I'd like to have our agreement and our business in place for a long time to come."
Rapoport reported Tuesday that if Bryant is tagged, he isn't likely to show his face around the facility until he is contractually obligated to. There isn't much the Cowboys can do about that.
"We just don't want to lose his rights," Stephen Jones said. "We think Dez is a, you know, unique player and certainly a big part of what we do in terms of what we've done, our success, and certainly going forward."
Bryant's situation is linked to how the team will deal with star running back DeMarco Murray, set to hit the open market on March 10. Stephen Jones acknowledged that talks with last year's league-leading rusher have been "slow" in the lead up to free agency, but noted that the 'Boys would "love to keep him in Dallas."
"(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," Stephen Jones said. "I do believe deep down he'd love to stay in Dallas."
If Murray lands elsewhere, the Cowboys can mine a deep class of free-agent runners for help. April's draft also offers a loaded lineup of backs, but the team -- at least publicly -- hasn't given up on Bryant and Murray both returning for 2015.