With ten wide receivers currently on the roster and the ability to keep around five of them, the Dallas Cowboys have some tough decisions ahead. Always a tough decision is when to let a veteran go and embrace the upside represented by a talented rookie.
The talented rookie, in this case, is third round draft pick from Baylor, Terrance Williams. It’s not that the Cowboys can’t keep Austin and work with Williams to be ready to eventually replace him, it’s that there are several other talented receivers on the roster as well. And if the Cowboys keep Austin, one of these receivers no longer has a job with the team. But the reason why I am presenting this as a choice between Austin and Williams is because Williams would likely become a starter as the second wide receiver if Austin were to leave.
An absolute fact that comes into play when discussing Austin is that the health, or lack thereof, of his hamstrings has caused him to no longer be the player that signed the huge contract after a breakout season. In watching him play in the 2012 season, it appeared to me that he protected his hamstrings by no longer running at full speed. So, as a result, a second absolute fact comes into play, Austin is being overpaid for his production.
That doesn’t mean that the Cowboys couldn’t trade him to a team that needs and experienced receiver and get some value in return, which would be better than cutting a less experienced receiver and getting nothing in return. But even if the Cowboys were to just cut Austin, they would still be better off. There would be a lot of money saved against the salary cap and, as mentioned previously, they would be able to keep a talented, but less experienced, receiver.
Getting back to Williams, who is somewhat of a mini-me to Dez Bryant, why not start him as a rookie, just like they did with Dez? The development of Williams would come along much more quickly if he were to be on the field most of the time. After all, you want your picks from at least in the first three rounds, to be starters don’t you? And recent history has shown the NFL stage is not too big for these Baylor receivers.
Receivers currently on the roster that I don’t believe will make the cut are: Anthony Armstrong, Tim Benford, Jared Green and Carlton Mitchell. Receivers the Cowboys should keep are: Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant, Danny Coale, Dwayne Harris and Terrance Williams. That’s five receivers. If for some reason the Cowboys were to decide to keep six of them, then there is a spot for Austin. However, if they keep only five and one of them is Austin, then they’re burning Co(a)le, because Danny Coale or Cole Beasley loses a job.
Injuries kept us from seeing anything from Coale last year. But he should show us this year why the Cowboys selected him when they did. And Beasley has shown enough for us to know he can succeed as a niche receiver in the NFL. The NFL success of Wes Welker and Danny Amendola (that the Cowboys let get away) shows us there is a place for receivers like Beasley in the NFL. If Beasley doesn’t make this team, I fully expect him to haunt the Cowboys in the future when they play the team he ends up with.
In all the years of watching the NFL, I have not seen as many veteran player cuts as I have this year. General Managers in the NFL finally understand aging veteran’s salaries quickly eclipse their performance on the field and are doing something about it. The end result is salary cap relief and the opportunity to receive big time performances from younger and less expensive players.
Austin has been a loyal soldier for this team and has no doubt played in pain on numerous occasions. But there is not enough time, or money, for sentimentality in the NFL. When it’s time, it’s time and I think it’s time for the Cowboys to wave goodbye to Miles Austin.