No Tag Needed

Austin had a breakout season in 2009, catching 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns.

season when he was traded from the Lions to the Cowboys.  

And in those four years, Williams caught 245 passes for 3,652 yards and 28 touchdowns.  

In four years, Austin has 99 catches for 1,674 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's half the yards, half the touchdowns and well below half the catches.  

Now you can say that's finding numbers to prove my point, and yes that's exactly what I'm doing. The point is, Roy Williams got paid because, over a four-year span, he's been a very productive receiver. Over four years, Austin was a raw receiver trying to figure out how to become a polished player and finally blew up his fourth year.  

That's not Austin's fault. But at the same time, one superstar season doesn't warrant a contract among the top five receivers in the game.  

Who knows, maybe that's well below the asking price for the Austin camp right now. But as a part of negotiations, that's what happens.  

My gut feeling is the Cowboys will give Austin the highest restricted tender possible - the one-year $3.16 million deal. If another team signs Austin to an offer sheet and the Cowboys choose not to match, then they would receive a first- and third-round pick this year.  

But let's be real here, the Cowboys are going to match. It's an uncapped year. They will figure it out and out-bid any team to keep their own superstar wide receiver. And another thing, if you go back over the last 10 years or so of free agency, teams aren't forfeiting high picks for restricted free agents.  

No team has given up a first-round pick and only the Patriots parted ways with a second-round pick and a seventh-rounder to get Wes Welker from the Dolphins. That turned out to be a genius move, but it hasn't prompted other teams to follow suit.  

Teams don't like to get rid of picks, so the restricted tender that would net a first- and third-round pick for Austin is probably a safe bet to keep him.  

Now that doesn't mean the Cowboys and Austin won't eventually get a long-term deal. That's what should happen. If we go back to the Romo situation - a guy that sat for three-plus seasons and then blew up for half a year and made it to the Pro Bowl - the Cowboys waited until the middle of the following season before giving him a long-term contract. And maybe that's what the Cowboys will do with Austin.  

But a franchise tag just doesn't make sense. Sure it would protect his rights to the point where only two first-round picks could change it. But then again, teams aren't giving out first-rounders, much less two.  

Secondly, it would immediately set the bar for Austin at about $9.5 million per season. Even if he didn't play for the franchise price tag, his new contract would likely average out to more than that.  

I'm not saying it's not worth it, just not necessary at the time. The owners hold the cards right now more than the players. That doesn't mean to stick it to a player like Austin who has worked his tail off to even get to this point in the game. But don't forget, this is a game. The negotiation part of a multi-million deal is very much a game and it's to be played carefully. 

The Cowboys have had good history of being smart with their money, but yet taking care of their prized possessions at the same time. And just like the cases of Ware and Romo, the Cowboys should handle it with the same approach for Austin.        

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