NFL Prop Bet: Where Will Dez Play in 2018?
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Life is tough without a full slate of NFL games to gamble on every Sunday, so in the meantime we have to make the best with what we have. NFL draft prop season is in full swing, and oddsmakers have blessed us with the chance to wager on where the league’s latest ex-All-Pro free agent receiver will land.
Who Will Dez Bryant Sign His Next NFL Contract With?
- Ravens (+300)
- Texans (+400)
- Packers (+500)
- Redskins (+500)
- Saints (+500)
- Patriots (+600)
- 49ers (+800)
- Bills (+800)
- Giants (+1000)
The Cowboys finally parted ways with their long-time No. 1 receiver after months of offseason rumors. They certainly didn’t do themselves or Bryant any favors by waiting more than two months to go through with the release, but now the league’s only wide receiver with 70-plus touchdowns since entering the league in 2010 is now on the market.
Bryant has a history of passionate outbursts on the sideline, and he accordingly didn’t hold back from expressing himself in the media and on Twitter during the fallout from his release. Sorting out exactly where he’ll land this early in the process is difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t identify some value in the odds based on reports and what Bryant has said himself.
He Wants to Punish the Cowboys
First, Bryant has insisted that he wants to play against the Cowboys and will not prioritize money. He specifically told Cowboys insider Mike Fisher:
- “I’m kinda hoping it’s an NFC East team. If it’s somewhere else, that’s fine. But I’d like to play the Cowboys twice.”
- “It won’t be about the money. . . . It won’t be about ‘market value.’ No. No. Not at all.”
The NFL hasn’t released the 2018 regular-season schedule yet, but we still know each team’s specific home and away opponents. Among the potential suitors for Bryant, the Cowboys will NOT match up with the Ravens (+300), Packers (+500), Patriots (+600), 49ers (+800), or Bills (+800) in the 2018 regular season.
As for those teams:
- Ian Rapoport reported the Ravens have shown the most interest in Bryant, but he’s yet to confirm that the interest is mutual. The Ravens have the highest odds, but I doubt that Bryant wants to join a crowded receiving group vying for Joe Flacco‘s attention.
- Adam Schefter named the Packers among four teams that “could show varying levels of interest” in Bryant, who later denounced the possibility by saying, “It wouldn’t seem right. . . . Too much history.”
- The Patriots have been linked to every notable veteran receiver since they revived Randy Moss’ career in 2007, but they already have Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, and Cordarrelle Patterson at receiver.
- The 49ers offer the opportunity to play in California with Jimmy Garoppolo, but adding both Bryant and Richard Sherman to the same locker room in one offseason seems like a stretch.
- Bryant’s assertion that he’d like this move to feel “special” almost certainly doesn’t involve spending his twilight in the Buffalo winter with another millennial throwing him the ball.
Eliminating those five potential suitors leaves us with the Texans (+400), Redskins (+500), Saints (+500), and Giants (+1000).
DeAndre Hopkins and Tyrann Mathieu are among the Texans who have reached out to Bryant on social media, and he’s returned the favor by following several of the team’s stars on Instagram. Social media flirtation aside, the Texans currently have the fifth-most cap space in the league to make an attractive in-state offer. Still, the Texans are largely already set at outside receiver with Hopkins and Will Fuller. Adding a non-slot receiver who demands targets might not be necessary considering how effective their offense was at full strength last season.
In 4 games with each of Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller healthy …
Texans points : 57, 34, 33, 38 = 40.5 PPG
Watson: 1,171 passing yards, 9.44 Y/A, 16/5 TD/INT
Nuk: 39 targets, 24-402-6
Fuller: 22 targets, 13-279-7 pic.twitter.com/WNfeio5zwM
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 11, 2018
The Saints have never been a team to splurge at wide receiver under head coach Sean Payton, and they’ve seemingly stuck to a fairly straightforward model at the position: One alpha beast, one slot maven and one field-stretcher. Michael Thomas, Willie Snead/Cameron Meredith and Ted Ginn Jr. already fill these respective roles, and the Saints are one of just eight teams with less than $8M in open cap space. Aside from Rapoport’s statement that the Saints are a possible landing spot and Payton’s recent decision to follow Bryant on Twitter, little connects Dez to the team.
Bryant’s rival-turned-Samsung-buddy Josh Norman has expressed interest in teaming up, and reports have indicated that the Redskins may have landed Bryant’s first meeting. They offer opportunity at receiver after losing Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant, although Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Doctson will get their share of the targets. While the Redskins have enough cap room to make an offer, it’s unclear if Alex Smith‘s historically conservative nature is a fit with Bryant’s need for 50/50 balls.
Verdict: This is the second-most reasonable landing spot, but pass.
Of all 31 potential suitors for Bryant, the Giants seem to be the apple of his eye. Bryant stated specifically, “The Giants got a helluva defense, they’re going to pay OBJ, so coming back. Playing with him, Sterling … the tight end, Manning? Crazy. … They draft (Saquon Barkley)? That’d be crazy!” Even while happily employed by the Cowboys, Bryant never attempted to hide his bromance with Odell Beckham Jr.
Dez can be the guy the Giants thought 2017 Brandon Marshall would be.
Also, Dez and OBJ used to be lovers. pic.twitter.com/Ll9aWTq6m3
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 13, 2018
The Giants could open up $5M in cap space by releasing the 34-year-old Brandon Marshall, who is coming off ankle surgery and the worst season of his career. Sterling Shepard ran 74.3% of his snaps from the slot last season, so Bryant would theoretically fit right in across from OBJ on the outside. Chris Mortensen reported shortly after the release that none of the NFC East teams was embracing Bryant’s wish to remain in the division, but this was before he specifically named the Giants as his preferred destination.
Verdict: Play Giants +1000. Even though they have the longest odds, the Giants might be Bryant’s best on- and off-field fit.
Pictured: Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.