According to Todd Archer (@toddarcher), who covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPN Dallas, Jerry Jones and company may be ready to part ways with New Jersey native and Monmouth University product Miles Austin.
Archer gave this response in his Twitter mailbag to a fan who asked if the Cowboys would offer Austin a pay cut to remain in Dallas for the 2014 season, “I don’t think so. From all the sounds coming from Valley Ranch, the Cowboys want to move on. Austin just couldn’t get going in 2013 with those hamstring injuries. I’ve long defended him and felt he was a good fit after what he did in 2012. But he just couldn’t get over those injuries. It’s a shame. Perhaps there’s a chance he comes back at a lower rate, but I can see the Cowboys drafting a receiver or going after a low-paid veteran in free agency on a short-term deal. The guy I have in mind is Robert Meachem.”
Going into 2014, the Cowboys have major salary cap issues, with OverTheCap.com suggesting that Dallas is currently almost $24 million over the cap. Austin is scheduled to make $8.25 million in 2014, a high total for a receiver who had only 24 catches for 244 receiving yards with no touchdown catches. Austin battled hamstring injuries all season and only played in 11 of 16 games last season.
In Austin’s case, salary is not the only concern with the receiver’s contract; as his deal runs through the 2017 season as well. Biting the bullet, the Cowboys will eat up almost $8 million in cap space this season, but the team will be out from under the remaining three years.
The feeding frenzy known as NFL free agency begins on March 11th, and that day many teams will overpay for talent to fill needs on their rosters. More often than not, unrestricted free agent contracts do not stand the test of time.
But there are opportunities for teams on the secondary free agent market; those players who have not played out a contract but rather have been cut by a team during an active contract. The New York Giants picked up Antrel Rolle from the Arizona Cardinals this way in 2010.
Last year, Aaron Ross was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed to a veterans’ minimum salary before the 2013 season. In many cases, the player has pocketed a hefty paycheck, so he is looking to put himself in a better playing situation with a new team.
Giant fans are optimistic that Jerrel Jernigan, who showed life at the end of last season, can step in and fill the void that will presumably be left when Hakeem Nicks bolts New York during free agency. But Jernigan stands only 5-9, and New York needs a big-bodied receiver to pick up the slack in the red zone.
And while Rueben Randle possesses good size at 6-2, he does not yet utilize his size well enough to become the team’s next Plaxico Burress.
Austin also stands 6-2, and he was born and raised in New Jersey. In addition, having played his entire career in the NFC east, there would not be any learning curve as far as the Giants’ primary opponents. If Austin can remain healthy, then a rotation of Victor Cruz, Jernigan, Randle and Austin would give Eli Manning more weapons than he had in 2013.
For a veteran with eight years of accrued service, the minimum salary Austin could be paid is $855,000, and if he is willing to take that to come back home to play with the Giants, then New York should pull the trigger on bringing this soon to be ex-Cowboy to the Big Apple.