by: Will Keys
After eight years, the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with wide receiver Dez Bryant. Naturally, Bryant has always been compared to Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas since the 2010 NFL Draft, when they were selected just two picks apart from one another.
We know about Thomas’s accolades as a Bronco — two hundred-plus catch seasons, five thousand-yard seasons and 57 career touchdowns, not including six career playoff touchdowns. Dez may or may not have caught a very crucial pass in Green Bay circa January of 2015. Like with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, we may never really know the truth.
The Cowboys’ decision to cut ties with Bryant proves one thing above all else: the Broncos made the right call in 2010 by taking Thomas over him. Oddly enough, it was Josh McDaniels, one of the worst decision makers in the history of human autonomy, who picked both Thomas and Eric Decker in the first three rounds of the draft.
Besides their draft status, there are a lot of factors that will connect their two careers: they’re both around the same size, both were embroiled in controversy around the beginning of their careers, both wear the number 88, both signed extensions on the same day, and both are athletic specimens that run much faster than the laws of physics should dictate.
If you were asked two years into their respective careers which player you would take to start your franchise, it would be hard to argue against Bryant. At that point, Dez had nearly twice as many yards as Thomas and eleven more touchdowns. Appearances can also be deceiving, however — Dez played about a season and a half with Tony Romo (with some Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee sprinkled in) while Demaryius Thomas was catching passes from Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow when he wasn’t rehabbing an achilles injury.
Thomas finally found his stride in 2012 with Peyton Manning, starting his five-season stretch of 1,000-yard campaigns and dominating in the playoffs, save for maybe the year Denver actually won the Super Bowl (seven catches, 60 yards, no touchdowns).
Bryant hit some serious peaks with Romo throwing him the football (1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014), but couldn’t quite make the transition to the Dak Prescott era, failing to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last two seasons.
It just goes to show that when it comes down to it, you want a wide receiver that can weather the storm, no matter who is playing quarterback. Bryant succeeded with Romo, sure, but Romo was a rare passer that brought the absolute best out of his supporting cast a la Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rodgers. Thomas has caught touchdowns from Orton, Tebow, Manning, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, and Paxton Lynch. Vinny Testaverde could probably lace ‘em up today and connect on a couple deep balls with DT. He just balls out, no questions asked, no matter who is on the other end of those passes.
The next couple weeks will prove mighty interesting to see what kind of market Dez is looking at in terms of suitors. Here’s a few ideal scenarios:
- Houston Texans: young quarterback with huge arm, Hopkins and Fuller to space the defense.
- Green Bay Packers: has effectively already won them a playoff game.
- San Francisco 49ers: can catch passes from another handsome, olive-skinned quarterback.
- Philadelphia Eagles: can play the Cowboys twice a year.
- Washington Redskins: can play the Cowboys twice a year, also does not have to live in Philadelphia.
- (Dishonorable mention) New England Patriots: let’s not do this.
Sidenote: The worst part of the offseason is when every big-name, aging veteran is linked to the Patriots. Never forget Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco.
It’s hard not to imagine that Thomas would have as strong a market, if not stronger, than Dez will get in the coming days and weeks. He’s proven he can put up numbers regardless of scheme or quarterback, he’s grown into an A+ teammate, and he shines in big moments (ask Ike Taylor).
Like with Five Guys vs. In-n-Out (In-n-Out), Coke vs. Pepsi (Coke), or Red Vines vs. Twizzlers (Red Vines), Dez vs. Demaryius (Demaryius) will always be a lively debate. I just don’t think the Broncos will ever quite regret their decision.