The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have been tangentially linked for decades as two of the most valuable and internationally-recognized franchises in the NFL. That rivalry peaked in the 90s with the Cowboys defeating the 49ers in the 1992 and 1993 NFC Championships, then San Francisco getting revenge in 1994. The winner of those conference title games went on to win the Super Bowl in each of those seasons.
Stars like Deion Sanders ended up playing for both (the Niners in 1994, then the Cowboys from 1995-1999), a tradition that continued with Terrell Owens (SF from 1996-2003, then Dallas from 2006-2008) and could be realized once again with the current free agent status of receiver Dez Bryant. After posting a video on Instagram, a fan posed the obvious question to Bryant — “Where do you want to play?” — and he instinctually answered it before deleting his response shortly thereafter:
A fan on Instagram asked Dez Bryant what team he wants to go to. Dez answered “49ers” and deleted it shortly after. pic.twitter.com/YKN1qKTtfe— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) May 28, 2018
His answer was: 49ers.
Bryant played for the Cowboys from 2010-2017, peaking from 2011-2014 with an average season of 84 catches, 1,216 yards, 14.5 YPC, plus 50 total touchdowns across those four years. However, Bryant has dipped to an average of 50 catches, 678 yards, 13.6 YPC in the last three years, with just 17 touchdowns. He has also missed 10 games with injury. In general, Bryant has not been the player he once was, but he could be a significant upgrade in the receiving unit for San Francisco and the appeal of Jimmy Garoppolo is likely driving a lot of players to focus their attention to the Bay Area.
The Niners are currently featuring Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Trent Taylor at receiver, with rookie second round pick Dante Pettis, seventh rounder Richie James, Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, and others competing for targets and playing time. Garcon may be a better overall player than Bryant at this point in their careers, but he missed half of 2017 and caught zero touchdowns. He may also not be as good as Bryant at this point in their careers.
Goodwin surprised people with his 962-yard season in 2017, but he caught just 53.3% of his targets overall and caught just two touchdowns. That’s two touchdowns total last season between San Francisco’s top two receivers. Taylor was a rookie last year and caught 43 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns, while Pettis’ progress and year one impact is still an unknown. Adding a player like Bryant may end up fruitless, but it is probably worth the risk if you’re the 49ers, and they still have $45 million in cap space.
And it appears that Bryant is hoping that they’re as interested in him as he is in them.