Back in 2009, Miles Austin was the best thing to ever happen to the Dallas Cowboys. In his first career start, subbing in for the injured Roy Williams, Austin went off against the Kansas City Chiefs to the tune of 10 catches, 250 yards, and three TDs (including the game winner in Overtime). He finished that season with over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns, and we all felt the next great Dallas Cowboys receiver was finally here.
Fast forward to 2013, and Austin has become one of the more vilified guys on the roster. Ever since the 28 year old from Monmouth University signed his mammoth 7 year, $54 Million contract in 2010, fans have been none too pleased with his production. In 2010, Austin actually had a decent year, recording another 1,000 yard season and hauling in 7 TDs. Most of the displeasure within Dallas in regards to Miles comes from his disappointing 2011 campaign. He struggled to stay on the field, constantly battling a prolonged hamstring injury that will likely always nag him from time to time. He only played in 10 games, and caught a miserable 43 balls.
2012 was a bit of a return to form for Miles, but his mega-contract doesn't allow for simply a "return to form". He finished with 943 yards, and would've likely eclipsed the 1000 yard mark if not for exiting the final game against Washington in the 1st quarter. He only had 6 touchdowns, but how many would you expect him to have when a guy like Dez Bryant explodes onto the scene in the way that he did?
If it was up to many of you, Miles Austin would not be on the team in 2013. His $8.3M cap hit is just too big of a number for many of you to swallow, and cutting him would save a good chunk of that. Instead, the team is looking to take the restructuring option, opting to hopefully drop that number low this season and back-load his deal to save them money now.
That's a good thing for the Dallas Cowboys, that's a good thing for Tony Romo, and it's definitely that's a good thing for Dez Bryant. Cutting Miles Austin would turn a solid receiving corp into a desperately weak one. Dez Bryant, who is turning into a Pro-Bowl receiver before our very eyes, has not had the cleanest record when it comes to injury. Say he goes down for a couple weeks; are you going to turn to Dwayne Harris as your number 1 guy? No. Hell no. And we like Dwayne. But we like him as a #3 and a punt returner, not nearly as much as a #1 or even a #2. Also, cutting Miles would allow opposing secondary's to dial in on shutting down Dez. As good as he is, it's tough to make an impact with 3 guys covering you. Miles keeps defenses honest, and will burn them if they're not.
The thing about cutting guys is that you need to have equal talent ready and willing behind them to step in when the time comes. The Dallas Cowboys do not currently have that luxury. Austin also has developed a very strong chemistry with Tony Romo, and that's something that doesn't always happen, regardless of talent (see: Roy Williams).
When healthy, Miles Austin is still a top-20 receiver in this league. Sure, he's getting paid like a top-10 guy, but that evens out when you assume we have a top-10 guy getting paid like a journeyman (Dez Bryant's cap hit is only $2.9M in 2013). This team needs Miles Austin, and in all likelihood, Miles Austin needs this team. Miles Austin is needed to win football games for the Dallas Cowboys, not to help them get under the Salary Cap.
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