Brian Allee-Walsh

Dez Bryant’s Saints stint never got started. Who does the team sign for help?

Former Cowboys WR Dez Bryant likes the team’s acquisition of Amari Cooper and says he plans to play again next year.
Former Cowboys WR Dez Bryant likes the team’s acquisition of Amari Cooper and says he plans to play again next year. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Wide receiver Dez Bryant signed with the New Orleans Saints on Thursday hoping to jump start a once-stellar NFL career and position himself for one more lucrative, long-term contract.

And now, the 30-year-old former Dallas Cowboys star wonders if he’ll ever play again.

Bryant reportedly suffered a torn Achilles heel on the last play of his second practice Friday with the NFC South-leaders, a freakish incident, according to observers, that happened on a routine, non-contact play in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium (noon, FOX).

He was not expected to play a role in Sunday’s game but was pointing toward next week’s clash against the defending Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after he better grasped the playbook and worked himself into football shape.

Now those plans have been dashed in the snap of a tendon.

If a scheduled MRI confirms the severity of Bryant’s injury as a torn Achiles heel, “at his age, his career likely is over,’‘ one New Orleans-based orthopedic surgeon told me Saturday.

If nothing else, Bryant’s career in New Orleans is over before it even got started. The purpose of his signing a one-year, pro-rated contract of $1.25 million was to bolster a depleted wide receiver position on the 53-man roster after the recent losses of Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith.

Bryant signed with the understanding that he would play a supporting role in the passing game with a heavy emphasis in red zone and third down situations. The plan was for Bryant to complement alpha dog wideout Michael Thomas, versatile running back Alvin Kamara, screen specialist Mark Ingram, rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith and tight end Ben Watson.

It seemed like a win-win proposition for Bryant and the team. The Saints had acquired a proven, big-play wide receiver (73 TDs in eight seasons with the Cowboys) at a modest price for the stretch run and Bryant was given an opportunity to resurrect a career with a legit Super Bowl LIII heavyweight contender.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton are expected to pursue the signing of free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall, 33, who worked out Tuesday at the team’s facility, along with Bryant and veteran receiver Kamar Aiken. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Saints will likely turned to Marshall, “who impressed New Orleans during his workout this week.”

Marshall pulled in 11 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown with Seattle before being released on Oct. 30.

For the short term, the Saints could promote rookie Keith Kirkwood (6-3, 220) from their practice squad.

Kirkwood played college ball at Temple and had 45 catches for 671 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior season.

As for Bryant, he now must deal with the suddenness of a potentially career-ending injury, or at the very least a minimum of eight months of grueling rehabilitation.

Plenty of time for him to ponder what might have been.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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