Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
IRVING, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys wanted to truly compete for a Super Bowl this season, they had to have a happy Dez Bryant.
With the five-year, $70 million deal that ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen reported, Bryant should be plenty happy. And a happy Bryant makes for some happy Cowboys.
It's not that Bryant wouldn't have given the same effort if he had to play the season on the $12.823 million franchise tag, but he might have wondered what else he had to do to get long-term security from the only team he has known and the only team he has truly wanted to play for.
The Cowboys' offense would have been OK without Bryant. Tony Romo has made it work with receivers at all levels since becoming the Cowboys' starting quarterback. The offensive line would have been good enough to make things just good enough.
But Bryant changes the dynamic of the offense.
He can score from anywhere on the field. There are few receivers in the NFL like that.
As coach Jason Garrett likes to say, defenses know where No. 88 is on every play, and they do as much as they can to slow him down.
Without Bryant, those running lanes would have been smaller. The Cowboys can tout the offseason progress of Terrance Williams and the development of Devin Street, but they don't force defenses to keep the safeties deep.
He keeps defenses honest. He will make life easier for Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar or whoever is running the ball behind the offensive line. Bryant makes life easier for Williams, Street, Cole Beasley and whoever else lines up at wide receiver. Bryant makes life easier for TE Jason Witten, who would have faced extra defensive attention without Bryant on the field.
Most importantly, he makes life easier for Romo.
The Cowboys have opened up a second window of contention in Romo's career with their 12-4 finish last season and their recent personnel acquisitions. Romo, who turned 35 in April, is coming off his best season. He threw 34 touchdown passes with nine interceptions and led the NFL in Total QBR, passer rating and completion percentage.
At the scouting combine in February, owner and general manager Jerry Jones related a story from the famed Cowboys bus at the Super Bowl about a conversation with Romo in regards to what the team needed to do with RB DeMarco Murray.
With Stephen Jones and Garrett within ear shot, Romo told the owner, "Jerry, see Stephen, he's got himself about 25-30 years of this ahead. Jason, coach, maybe something similar to that. Me, I'm three to five. You're three to five. We got to stick together. It's now for us."
The Cowboys didn't move much to keep Murray, who left for the Philadelphia Eagles, despite Romo's plea.
By signing Bryant to this type of deal, the Cowboys showed they needed him more than Murray, and they've shown everybody that the time is now for them to compete for a Super Bowl.