IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) — There is no value in the Cowboys publicly tipping their hand regarding their plans with receiver Miles Austin. Nor is there value in the organization being disrespectful to a player who might go down as a street-free-agent success story.
But the Cowboys have privately determined which way they are leaning regarding the former Pro Bowler: Make him a post-June 1 cut, thus escaping from the bulk of their $8.2 million commitment to him.
The move wouldn’t be painless; while it would free up $5.5 million in cap room this year, there would be a $5 million carryover of dead money into 2015. Additionally, the post-June 1 cut (each team is allowed two of those “amnesty’’-like moves) comes following free-agent shopping season, which means the team is temporarily handcuffed from making all the moves it might otherwise pursue.
At the time Austin signed his six-year, $54-million deal in 2010, he was a feel-good story, a self-made player who grew from being an undrafted free agent from Monmouth University to being a Pro Bowler. Coach Jason Garrett – once upon a time himself an undrafted player who worked himself into the NFL — frequently used Austin as a role-modeling example for players with small reputations but big dreams.
But entering 2014, third-round pick Terrance Williams has clearly emerged as Dallas’ No. 2 receiver alongside Dez Bryant. While Austin was again plagued by hamstring problems – a liability not only on Sundays but also during in-week gameplanning when coaches could never could on his availability — undrafted youngster Cole Beasley became a reliable slot receiver (previously an Austin specialty). And special-teams star Dwayne Harris is more than adequate as a fourth guy.
On top of that, there is the option of using more 12 Personnel packages, as was the plan last spring when tight end Gavin Escobar was drafted in the second round. Additionally, there are likely solid NFL players (and draft-worthy prospects) who can be acquired at a fraction of Austin’s $8.2 mil price tag.
In October, as the Cowboys were once again waiting and hoping for an Austin return-to-form that never came, Garrett said, “It’s Line 1 in life: You got to do what you need to do. Miles has to get himself healthy and when he gets himself healthy, he’s a damn good football player.”
That’s Line 1. But Line 2 and Line 3 are that in addition to being a damn good football player, you’ve got to be healthy and you’ve got to be affordable.
Miles Austin is too infrequently either of those. And so June 1 is looming as the next chapter in his otherwise-successful story.
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