Miles Austin's eight-year tenure as a member of the Dallas Cowboys has come to an end. The Cleveland Browns' official website indicates that the 29-year-old wide receiver, who was designated earlier this offseason as a post-June 1 roster cut, signed with the team on Thursday.
Prior to that development, it appeared there was a chance the two-time Pro Bowler could actually wind up back in Dallas for the 2014 season.
Rowan Kavner at DallasCowboys.com reported on the possibility earlier this week:
Head coach Jason Garrett said Austin is “absolutely” a possibility to come back to the team, although the fifth-round selection of Devin Street may make the Cowboys comfortable with what they’ve got.
“We love Miles Austin, we really do,” Garrett said after the draft. “Obviously, drafting Devin Street (Saturday), we addressed the receiver position a little bit. But Miles has been a really good player for us.”
However, that was Garrett making nice, because this was always the only option.
First, as Garrett mentioned, there's Street. The 23-year-old Pittsburgh product is a big target who can line up in both the slot and outside, and his ceiling is obviously much higher than Austin's.
Street's also cheaper, regardless of what kind of deal Austin were to sign to stay in Dallas. Street went 146th overall. The 146th pick in last year's draft, Quanterus Smith, is only costing the Denver Broncos $588,000 a year. The minimum salary for Austin, at this stage of his career, would be $855,000.
When you're as cap-strapped as the Cowboys have been, that counts.
But I don't even believe Austin was released merely for financial reasons.
Sure, that made this a no-brainer, but don't forget that Austin had become an unreliable receiver of late and the Cowboys are smartly trying to avoid having washed-up veterans linger on the roster. It's just not healthy.
Speaking of not being healthy, Austin has missed 11 games in the last three seasons. He has been hamstrung by his hamstrings in recent seasons and the odds of that changing beyond his 30th birthday, which is coming up next month, obviously aren't good.
Even when healthy, Austin's productivity has fallen off a cliff in recent seasons, and the Cowboys have three superb options beyond starters Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams.
One is Street, and the other two are Cole Beasley—a slot specialist with great hands—and Dwayne Harris—a versatile speedster with game-breaking ability. All are 26 or younger.
|Cowboys receivers who are better than Miles Austin|
|Dez Bryant||25||$2.4 M||93 REC, 1233 YDS, 13 TD|
|Terrance Williams||24||$0.7 M||44 REC, 736 YDS, 5 TD|
|Cole Beasley||25||$0.6 M||39 REC, 368 YDS, 2 TD|
|Dwayne Harris||26||$0.6 M||9 REC, 80 YDS, 2 TD|
|Devin Street||23||$0.6 M||N/A|
|*Estimated 2014 salary based on precedents|
Last season, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) noted that Austin caught only 52.2 percent of the passes thrown his way. League-wide, that ranked 91st among 111 qualifying receivers.
Beasley and Harris caught 72.7 percent of the balls thrown in their direction, which would have ranked in the top five for an individual player.
Austin produced just 0.76 yards per pass route run, which ranked second-last in the NFL among receivers who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps.
With three quality players like Beasley, Harris and Street able to play the slot, there was little reason for the Cowboys to spend something in the range of $1 million to keep yet another reminder of this team's mediocre recent history on the payroll.
Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.