by Joe Fortenbaugh
March 02, 02010
The Dallas Cowboys have made it clear that they have no intentions of losing wide receiver Miles Austin.
Whether or not they succeed in this mission is entirely up to them.
With just three days until the start of free agency, the team has yet to reach an agreement with the restricted free agent wideout on a long-term deal. In addition, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the organization will not place the franchise tag on Austin this offseason. Doing so would require the team to pay Austin a one-year salary of $9.521 million.
It would also force any team interested in acquiring Austin’s services to cough up two first-round draft picks as compensation to the Cowboys—a price that would likely be too rich for any interested suitors to consider paying for the Pro Bowl receiver.
Instead, the expected course of action for the Dallas front office will be to place the highest restricted free agent tender possible on Austin, giving him a $3.168 million salary in 2010. If another team wants a shot at the wide receiver, they’ll have to give the Cowboys both a first and third round draft pick and hand Austin an offer sheet. Dallas would then have seven days to match the offer, or they’d lose their prized wideout for good.
And there lies the problem.
By not getting Austin signed to a long-term deal or placing the franchise tag on him, the Cowboys have left themselves somewhat exposed. The fourth-year veteran is coming off a breakout, Pro Bowl season in which he caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards (third in NFL) with 11 touchdowns (fourth). He’s established himself as proven NFL wideout who can get the job done on a weekly basis—a commodity that several NFL franchises are in desperate need of.
Enter Redskins owner and NFC East rival Daniel Snyder.
We all know Snyder isn’t shy about spending cash. He shelled out $41 million in guaranteed money to free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth last year on the first day of free agency. He also just locked-up head coach Mike Shanahan to a five-year contract that is worth approximately $7 million per year.
In addition, the Redskins have a pressing need at wide receiver. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El will both be 31-years-old at the start of the season and 2008 draft picks Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas have combined for just 22 starts and 68 receptions over the past two years.
There is, however, a problem. Washington is currently without a third-round pick as they gave it up last summer to acquire defensive end Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft. This would require the ‘Skins to compensate the Cowboys with their first and second round picks in order to have a shot at Austin.
A steep price? You bet. But this is an uncapped year and Snyder has proven in the past that he isn’t afraid to spend.
Look at it like this. The Redskins hold the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. How many eligible players would you rate higher than a proven, Pro Bowl veteran like Austin? Remember, swinging and missing with the fourth pick is a very expensive mistake.
Even if the Redskins believe this is too much to give up in exchange for Austin, they should make him an offer anyway. The Cowboys can’t afford to let Austin go and have made it clear they have no intentions of losing him. By making a big-time offer, the ‘Skins can push their division rivals into a corner, forcing them to match the deal—while possibly overspending in the process.
Think about it. Do you really believe Jerry Jones would allow a rival franchise like the Redskins and rival owner like Daniel Snyder to come in and outbid him for one of his favorite players?
Remember, Jones wants nothing more than to be playing for the 2011 Super Bowl--a game that just happens to be taking place in the owner's fancy new stadium.
And he’ll have a tough time getting there with only the overpriced Roy Williams and the soon-to-be 31-year-old Patrick Crayton—which is exactly why the Redskins should take advantage of this opportunity to burn their hated division rivals.
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