- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Imagine this: it’s third-and-goal with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and the Redskins are just outside the end zone, down by 3. As Alex Smith drops back to pass, he notices an open receiver — flinging it just as the pressure arrives.

The receiver hauls in the pass to the ground, stands up — and crosses his arms in the air for his signature “X.”

The Redskins fans cheer… Dez Bryant?

With a little more than two weeks until training camp opens on July 26, this is the time of year when fans can picture any scenario, no matter how unrealistic it might sound.

So yes, let’s have fun for a second and discuss the possibility of Bryant joining the Redskins. The 29-year-old receiver is still unemployed — and is the league’s most high-profile free agent not named Colin Kaepernick.

The idea of the Redskins adding Bryant popped up almost instantly after the Dallas Cowboys released him in April. Bryant openly expressed his desire to stay in the NFC East so he could face the Cowboys twice per year. Naturally, that put Washington on a short list.

The Redskins didn’t act then, and it’s not hard to see why. Washington has significant resources committed to its receivers, ranging from a former first-round draft pick (Josh Doctson) to a marquee free agent signing (Paul Richardson).

Coach Jay Gruden, too, is comfortable with using running backs and tight ends as weapons. He doesn’t necessarily “need” a star receiver.

“We’ve got a lot of good guys to choose from,” Gruden said in May about the team’s receiving core.

But in theory, Bryant could add value. At 6-foot-2, Bryant has been a red zone threat throughout his career and was one of 16 receivers last season to catch more than 10 passes inside the 20. Five of Bryant’s six touchdowns came from the red zone in 2017.

The Redskins, by contrast, were an average team in that area. Last season, they ranked 16th by scoring a touchdown just 54.5 percent of the time inside the 20. That was actually an uptick on their dreadful 45.9 red zone touchdown percentage in 2016.

Washington cornerback Orlando Scandrick reignited the Dez debate in early July when he told the Dallas Morning News that he would “love” to see Bryant in a Redskins uniform.

“I know Dez can still catch touchdowns,” said Scandrick, who was a teammate with Bryant for years in Dallas. “I know he can still be a great red zone threat, and I would love to play with him again.”

In his comment, Scandrick touched upon the question that teams are asking themselves when it comes to possibly signing Bryant — can the guy still play?

Once a star in Dallas, Bryant hasn’t had a 1,000-yard-plus season since 2014. After undergoing foot surgery in 2016, Bryant lacked the explosiveness that he had earlier in his career. In 2017, Bryant had 69 receptions for 838 yards.

But Bryant has reportedly garnered interest, turning down a three-year, $21 million offer from the Baltimore Ravens in April. Bryant, according to insider Ed Werner, prefers to join a team that can help restore his market value on a one-year, prove-it deal.

On Thursday, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reported: “The best guess from those around the league is Bryant will get his wish to play with the 49ers, but that isn’t a done deal by any means.” In May, Bryant posted on Instagram that he wanted to join San Francisco before quickly deleting his message.

The Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints have also been linked to Bryant, in more of a speculative manner.

So, where will Bryant land? That’s unknown at the moment, though the signs don’t point to Washington.

But hey, there’s always Madden if you’re interested to see what Bryant looks like in burgundy and gold.

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