The biggest surprise for the Dallas Cowboys during the 2011 regular season was the emergence of little-known wide receiver Laurent Robinson. A five-year veteran at the time he arrived in Dallas, Robinson's career appeared to be heading nowhere following brief stints with the Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers.
It's seldom that a wide receiver shows up on a new team after the beginning of football games and still has the impact that Robinson did on the Dallas offense.
Some may forget that the Cowboys were getting desperate for proven bodies at wide receiver following the departure of Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd following the disaster of 2010 that resulted in the firing of former head coach Wade Phillips.
But cleaning house can sometimes hurt, and with only Dez Bryant and Miles Austin considered primary wide receivers in the Dallas passing attack, Robinson was given not one, but two shots at playing for the Cowboys.
After signing a one-year contract in early September, Robinson was released after only his first practice a week later.
But then just another week later, as younger receivers like Jesse Holley, Kevin Ogletree and Manuel Johnson failed to lock down the third receiver spot, Robinson was picked back up.
Robinson took off from there.
With no training camp and not even a full month of September, Robinson would amass 54 receptions for 858 yards while leading the team in touchdown receptions with 11—all career highs.
Now, some will say that not extending Robinson's one-year contract following his surprise performance in '11 was a mistake—and they would be right, especially after what we saw out of the Dallas offense down the stretch last season.
Robinson took that one-year performance into the free-agent signing period a year ago and cashed in on a five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was on March 14, 2012.
Robinson was released from the Jaguars March 13, 2013.
After suffering multiple concussions during the first half of last season, Robinson was placed on injured reserve, along with his quarterback Blaine Gabbert, in November. It's safe to say that Robinson's expected production wasn't met in his first season with the Jaguars—then again, trying to catch passes from Gabbert is worth at least one concussion just in headaches due to frustration.
So what happens now?
Should the Cowboys bring in Robinson for another run?
As long as those concussions are not a lingering problem that threatens Robinson's career, which they certainly might, this former third-round draft choice out of Illinois State could be just what the Cowboys need right now.
It's no secret that Dallas has little money to spend on the free-agent market thanks, in part, to the decision to franchise linebacker Anthony Spencer again and also the lack of a long-term extension for quarterback Tony Romo. But the odds favor Robinson being a mighty-cheap resource that could prove to be highly valuable again.
Robinson and Romo displayed unusual chemistry despite no offseason together as the '11 season was getting started. Remember that Robinson was in training camp with San Diego that summer.
Understanding that Robinson's volume of work is limited, it's also important to realize that what he has shown, thus far, is the fact that he clicks with Romo. This much is not a question.
Should the Cowboys bring back Laurent Robinson?
As the free-agent signing period rolls into its second week, Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones obviously has to wait until the market really settles down before he can do anything. With around $100,000 in cap space right now, the Cowboys appear to be in no position to sign new waterboys, let alone a veteran football player from anywhere. Squeezing in veteran linebacker Ernie Sims on Monday was a tight fit, and he'll likely amount to only depth playing for peanuts.
Nonetheless, the Cowboys are fully aware that Robinson is available. Dallas vice president Stephen Jones has stated this week that the franchise will do their homework on their former ''one-hit wonder,'' and while I believe this is true, don't expect to see Robinson signing anywhere anytime soon.
Along with the Cowboys, 31 other NFL franchises also know Robinson's name and they also know the injury circumstances surrounding this wide receiver. Nobody will rush into anything with Robinson.
But given the fact that after Bryant, Austin and possible third wideout Dwayne Harris, there is nothing on the roster that is proven as far as depth at this key position—and we all know how head coach Jason Garrett, who I think will still be calling offensive plays next season, loves to sling the football around like it's some kind of arena league.
So keep your eyes on Robinson. Just don't be afraid to blink.