Dez Bryant's next payday

The free-agent value of an NFL wide receiver often has as much to do with what other comparable wideouts earned previously as it does with his statistical production on the field. With that in mind, ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins took a look at what Victor Cruz is trying to get from the New York Giants as an RFA to help determine what Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant might earn when his turn comes up after 2014.

"Cruz was tendered by the Giants at $2.8 million but wants a long-term deal averaging close to $10 million a season. The Giants want him to average less than that," Watkins wrote.

"... The Cowboys need to be cautious what they pay Bryant because of his questionable decisions off the field -- which, in fairness, don't seem to be an issue anymore -- and what the top receivers make. Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million), Calvin Johnson ($15.6 million), Andre Johnson ($14.4 million), Mike Wallace ($12 million) and Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million) are at the top of the average salaries per seasons for wide receivers. Does Cruz belong at that level? What about Bryant?"

ESPN NFC East blogger Dan Graziano thinks Bryant has a better shot than Cruz at cracking that list of the top-paid WRs:

Dan Graziano

What Cruz's situation means for Dez Bryant

"I think it's impossible to make a prediction about Bryant's deal until we see at least one more year of Bryant. If he continues to show that he's got his off-field life together, and if he continues to play the way he did in 2012, he will indeed be able to ask for at least what Wallace and Bowe received, and likely more. If he slips up again off the field, or his play is inconsistent in 2013, or if he gets hurt, then old questions arise. I don't see Cruz cracking that top five Calvin listed here even if he gets every dollar he's asking for, so the only way he becomes a benchmark for Bryant is if Bryant does not continue to perform at that elite level over the next year or two. But I think 2012 was just the start for Bryant, who has the talent to become one of the very best in the entire league at his position."