Before Wednesday's deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term contract, three substantial pacts came together:
» The Kansas City Chiefs signed outside linebacker Justin Houston to a six-year, $101 million deal that includes $52.5 million in guarantees.
» The Dallas Cowboys signed wide receiver Dez Bryant to a five-year, $70 million deal with $45 million in guarantees.
» The Denver Broncos signed wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to a five-year, $70 million deal with $35 million in guarantees.
Which player do you think will provide the most bang for the buck?
Given his overall impact and scoring prowess (56 career TD receptions, including 41 over the last three seasons), Bryant is still a bit underpaid despite today's jackpot.
Getting bogged down in the details is missing the point, though. A top-five pass rusher is worth more than a top-five receiver. Houston is set apart because he's so strong against the run, as well. He's a huge asset every down, not just when it's a pass play. That gives him an edge over Bryant and Thomas.
At times, he can be a handful, but Bryant is the most talented receiver in the NFL -- the ultimate blend of size and hands and the perfect target for Tony Romo. Bryant is a beast on third down and in the red zone. His will to win is incredible.
Houston and Thomas are also true stars, but Dez is a powerhouse and the pulse of the Cowboys brand.
Playing without Bryant would cause more damage to Dallas than Denver would experience without Demaryius Thomas. Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense would still be productive with Emmanuel Sanders (who ranked fifth in the NFL in receiving yards last season); Cody Latimer, meanwhile, sounds confident he'll be an active part of coach Gary Kubiak's scheme -- which also includes C.J. Anderson to help balance the attack. Without Bryant, the Cowboys aren't even an 8-8 squad.
Ultimately, these massive deals mean nothing beyond the guaranteed cash, and Dez's payday will seem antiquated when A.J. Green and Julio Jones sign new deals down the road. I view Bryant as every bit the equal of those players -- he'll just cost less, because he signed his deal first.
Jerry Jones has been lashed in days past for overpaying average players, but the Cowboys owner deserves credit today. It went down to the end, but Big D just put a ring on its best player. The Cowboys remain Super Bowl-relevant for doing so.