Of all weaknesses possessed by the Dallas Cowboys, wide receiver doesn't generally jump out as a top concern. Given the money doled out to starting wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, there doesn't seem to be much question regarding who´s expected to catch most passes thrown by quarterback Tony Romo, provided he´s still standing up to find them.
But a closer look reveals that this position, extremely overrated in today's pass-happy NFL, is not very well stocked on the depth chart.
Expect this to change.
No, a pass catcher won't rank as a priority over the Cowboys' first three to four selections in the upcoming NFL draft in April. Beyond that, Dallas might take a shot at a receiver late in the selection meeting, but how likely are they to find a prospect that's much better than the guys they already have?
I would simply say that it isn't likely at all.
Here's the deal: Beyond three-year veteran Bryant, there is virtually no one proven or reliable as a pass catcher. Tight end Jason Witten speaks for himself and certainly helps a struggling offensive line by catching more than his share of passes, but we're just talking receivers here.
Being the future focal point of Dallas' offense, or at least it appears that way now, Bryant could use some consistent help on the other side and he's not getting that from the dramatically overpaid and overrated Austin, who should be looking for a lower paycheck on another team next season.
But Austin likely is going nowhere this offseason, and so the depth chart really has some concerns.
Since the draft will be about positions that just don't include wide receiver, free agency is going to be the option.
Remember Laurent Robinson's out-of-nowhere campaign in 2011? His 858 yards receiving were nothing to write home about, but his 11 touchdown receptions caught the eyes of the NFL. Playing on a one-year contract that year, Robinson was allowed to walk in free agency last offseason and there was nothing close to a replacement for his productivity.
Bryant and Austin are capable of putting up those kinds of numbers, especially the touchdowns, but consistency and reliability have prevented this from happening very often over the past few seasons.
Dwayne Harris emerged last season as a weapon returning punts, but his ability to contribute to the Dallas offense in the future is a bit of a question mark.
Harris hasn't done it yet.
Even if you believe that Harris will continue to progress, which he certainly could, this leaves just three wide receivers who have shown the right potential and skill set to at least stick around in the Dallas offense. But there needs to be more capability and depth at this position.Coal Beasley?
Now, don't expect Dallas to go after a wide receiver early in free agency. Guys like Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and Victor Cruz will either be too expensive or too old to justify a big, multi-year contract. The Cowboys simply don't have that kind of money to spend and they certainly have other needs.
So, I'm looking toward players like Brian Hartline, Tedd Ginn, Jr., or even Braylon Edwards.
Receivers like these will not be setting the market at the position and therefore could be a bargain. A strong third wideout doesn't have to be a guy that catches 60-plus passes each season—not in Dallas, anyway.
Another intriguing veteran is David Nelson, a 6'5" pass catcher who will be coming off a season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured ACL suffered as the regular season began last September. Nelson would be the tallest wide receiver on the roster, as it stands now, and could possibly offer a future alternative for Austin as a No. 2 receiver.
Remember too that Robinson wasn't acquired by the Cowboys until September of 2011, so it's not like he was expensive or even well-known as a player then. But opportunity presented itself and this move surpassed everybody's expectations.
The Cowboys don't have to wait until September to make a move on a receiver. They also won't be jumping to the head of the line to overpay for a receiver, either.
But Dallas has to have its eyes wide open for not just a future contributor for years to come, but also for a player who can bolster Romo's options in the passing game that lame-duck head coach Jason Garrett loves so much.
It might just be the "Romo-Friendly" thing to do.