Will Miles Austin lose sleep over his contract?
By: Joe D.
Miles Austin had a breakout season in 2009 recording 81 receptions, 1,320 yards receiving, with 11 td’s earning his first trip to the pro-bowl. Amazingly he did this all in only 12 games as a starter (In the first four games he contributed 5 catches for 81 yards). Miles is a restricted free agent this year and is also subject to being frachised by the Dallas Cowboys.
In the NFL, quarterbacks can excel for one year and then are mediocre for the remainder of their career. Scott Mitchell, to the dismay of the Detroit Lions fans, and Derek Anderson, to the continuing dismay of Browns fans, are good examples of this phenomena. In 2007 Tony Romo was playing in the final year of a restricted free agent contract; the Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season. Miracle win after miracle win only added to Romo’s value and the contract was signed after the mid-point that season. The point is that Jerry Jones, general manager/owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was cautious and did not break the bank on a player who only played effectively for little more than half a season.
Wide receivers tend to be more stable in their production. Generally it takes a year or two for them to acclimate to the pro-game, and once they do they tend to flourish. There are inevitably exceptions, but none come to mind. Maybe Jerry Porter, but the Raiders seem to be playing a different game than the rest of the league.
Considering Romo’s contract as a road map, Austin may not get a long term contract this off-season. It should be noted that when Romo signed his contract there was a salary cap and the Cowboys were 2 years from moving into the Palace at Dallas. It will come though – with continued production Jerry Jones has never let a star player leave for greener pastures. Jimmy Smith, former Jacksonville Jaguars WR, is one of the lone exceptions, but during his 2 year tenure in Dallas he was frequently injured and unproductive. In a storyline that I simply didn’t recall, Jerry Jones instigated a rift with Smith. Jones did not believe he should pay Smith for the 1993 season as Smith was unavailable due to complications with his appendix being removed (a non-football related injury). Chris Canty was allowed to seek greener pastures after the 2008 season. In an article by Peter King, Canty was only one 11th hour offer from the Giants from crawling back to the Cowboys with his tail between his legs. While Canty was a quality player, he was not a star nor was the worth the contract he received from the Giants.
What does all this mean? I believe that Jerry Jones’s history of being cheap with players is exactly that, history. Emmit Smith was the last hold-out of consequence, and Jerry Jones has used the franchise tag only sparingly in the past decade. Austin will receive a high unrestricted free agent tender, $3.168 million. As the new collective bargaining agreement begins to materialize, Jones will develop a contract that mirrors the CBA. If the salary cap is expected to return, Austin will receive a front loaded contract to take advantage of the uncapped 2010 year. If there isn’t a salary cap, we may expect Jerry to offer a contract with escalating numbers. The worst case scenario is if a contract isn’t forth coming while Austin is still producing. This may suggest that a 2011 lockout is looming. If this is the case, Miles may lose sleep, but the fans biggest nightmare is on the horizon.