Despite having disappointing seasons in 2018, veteran receivers Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin are both still on the Dallas Cowboys roster. If the Cowboys have to choose between just one of them for this year's team, does Austin or Hurns provide more value in 2019?
It's easy to see why Allen and Tavon may be competing for the same roster spot. Dallas has a clear top-three at WR now with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb. They're also unlikely to part with Noah Brown, who has youth and versatility on his side.
Maybe the Cowboys only keep five receivers, choosing to go longer at tight end some other position. Perhaps rookie RB Tony Pollard's versatility give them that option. That scenario would likely have them picking between Austin and Hurns for the final spot at WR.
Even if Dallas keeps six receivers, there's no guarantee those last two are the veterans. Younger prospects such as Cedrick Wilson, Jalen Guyton, and Jon'Vea Johnson could push for roster spots and provide value and upside at much less cost.
That issue right there, cost, is one of the key areas of concern for Austin and Hurns. Tavon's 2019 cap hit is $1.32 million with $500,000 in dead money if released. Hurns' is a whopping $6.25 million and $1.25 million in guarantees.
That alone gives Austin a major edge; only about $800k in cap savings if released compared to $5 million for Hurns. If the key word here is value, Tavon is significantly cheaper and offers way less incentive to cut.
That being said, money isn't everything.
Teams also have to look at their 53 roster spot, and the 46 spots for players active on game days, and figure out who fills what roles. As it applies to Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, where would they fit in if they're on the team?
Austin's value potentially took a big hit last April when Dallas drafted Tony Pollard. The speedy runner-receiver is expected to be deployed in a lot of the ways the Cowboys utilized Tavon last year, which could even include return duties on special teams. If Pollard earns confidence in camp and preseason, would Dallas still feel the need for Austin?
Hurns is a more traditional receiver and that could actually be more useful this season. If Dallas were to lose Cooper or Gallup for a significant period of time, Allen has the most experience and skill to step in as an outside WR. Randall Cobb could start if needed, but they may like Hurns out there in 3-WR sets more than Brown or any other option.
Unfortunately, hypothetical injury scenarios are only so powerful. If everyone's healthy before Week One, Dallas has to make decisions based on immediate reality.
This is where those younger guys like Brown, Pollard, Wilson and others come into play. Who proves they can fill a role for cheaper than Austin or Hurns? Who shows enough that it allows Dallas to part with one of the veterans?
Because of his sizable cap hit and lack of special teams ability, Allen Hurns is currently the less valuable player compared to Tavon Austin. But if Tony Pollard cuts into Austin's jobs, or if an injury occurs among the top three receivers, that could quickly shift in Hurns' favor.
A lot can change between now and final cuts. And if the end result is that neither Austin or Hurns make the 2019 roster, that also shouldn't surprise us.