Today marks the beginning of the rest of Miles Austin's career as he awaits an imminent offer from the Jets, and as we wait along with him to see just how determined the Jets are to acquire him, there are some things to consider in Dallas.
First and foremost on the agenda for the Cowboys should Austin depart for New Jersey is wide receiver depth and lineup since Austin is projected as the second starter opposite Williams if he stays. The release of Owens was a clear sign that the team is moving in a younger direction that is hopefully more team oriented than Owens' has ever been.
But if Austin leaves, and that is definitely possible, it would remain Sam Hurd and Isaiah Stanback as the only youth amongst our wide outs. The problem is that both Hurd and Stanback have had issues being productive on the field, when either can stay healthy enough to get on the field.
Should Austin sign with New York, the Cowboys would receive a second round 2009 draft pick in compensation; the Jets pick #52 behind the Cowboys' second round pick of #51.
Many see the class of receivers in this draft as very talented, spearheaded by the likes of Michael Crabtree, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jeremy Maclin, and Percy Harvin. The Cowboys have a great shot of finding a quality receiver in the second round that can be expected to contribute this season, but many doubts exist that any receiver available in the second round of this years draft will be able to take on the kind of role that Austin is expected to occupy in Dallas for 2009.
With rookie wide receivers it is often not a matter of talent, but of experience that determines success, and very few beyond the top 15 – 20 picks have been able to be effective in their rookie season as a starter. Even in more limited roles many of these receivers have trouble adjusting to life at the pro level, see DeSean Jackson in 2008 as he celebrated early and tossed a ball behind him before he broke the plane of the goal line.
So the question becomes what exactly will the Cowboys do to replace Austin? Having veteran receiver Patrick Crayton does help to ease concerns as he held the number 2 slot until Williams arrived in 2008, but Crayton has always been most effective playing in the slot. It's possible that Hurd or Stanback can step up and produce, and stay healthy enough to assume that starting role, but after two off-seasons to evaluate each, that possibility is seeming unlikely.
At this point, it is even hard to say if any receiver in this years draft would be any better than Hurd or Stanback, though gems have been found at worse positions than day one of the draft.
So many fans are asking about the possibility of Dallas bringing in a veteran receiver in free agency to fill the hole. I suppose it's a sign of desperation and panic that anyone has suggested the troubled Matt Jones, which again makes me happy that some fans aren't coaches or executives on this team. Signing Matt Jones would be tantamount to signing Adam Jones, and we all know how well that worked out for us.
Jones was a solid player for us early in 2008, filling in due to injuries, but before he could get into his own rhythm he was again barred from playing because of his immature actions away from the game. The guy may be able to play at a Pro Bowl caliber, but so long as he continues to butt heads with the NFL's personal conduct policy, he'll never be anything more than a good backup.
Matt Jones hasn't had as many issues as Pacman did, but neither has former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress and nobody seems to be in a hurry to bring him here. Given the way the Giants' offense suffered after Burress was suspended/injured, it's a fair bet that he was on his way to a hall of fame career. But with so many players experiencing legal difficulties of their own doing, the trend in the league this year seems to be finding better character.
There is also some better tamed veteran help out there in Marvin Harrison, who maybe has a year or two left of decent production, and Torry Holt, who while getting up there in age, still has a few years of a production that we could closely match with Patrick Crayton.
None of the options seem to be at the top of anyone's list, though there are several available to us. Another option is for Jerry Jones to make another of his now infamous draft-day trades to move up and grab better talent, but Jones has stated that he likes not having a first round pick this year because of the potential for next year to be uncapped. It's a sentiment that he backed up by trading his 2009 first round pick to Detroit in order to secure first round talent without dealing with the cap numbers associated with a rookie first round pick.
And now we have news out there that the Bills, since acquiring Terrell Owens in free agency, are shopping fifth year receiver Roscoe Parrish around the league. Parrish has not been a huge contributor for the bills since being drafted by the Bills in the second round of the 2005 draft, but his numbers have been solid by the Cowboys standards.
Parrish has averaged 263 yards and 24.25 receptions over each year he's played in the NFL, and has five receiving touchdowns. Compare that to Miles Austin (118 yards, 4.5 receptions, 3 touchdowns) and it actually seems as though Parrish would be the better guy to have. Parrish will be 27 when the season starts, and Austin will be 26, but the big difference seems to be that Parrish actually started all 16 games in each of 2006 and 2007, and 13 games in 2008 while Austin only started 16 games in 2007 and 12 in 2008.
Experience, as I've said, seems to be worth as much as talent with wide receivers anymore and Parrish has more of it to offer. To make it even sweeter, the only reason Parrish didn't start all 16 games in 2008 was a torn ligament in his thumb, which has been surgically repaired.
Looking at their combine stats, Parrish and Austin have very similar speed, if Parrish isn't faster than Austin, but Austin is bigger than Parrish all around.
So maybe I've got it all wrong, but it looks like there might be some hidden talent out there to replace Austin if the Jets do decide to get tricky with their offer, which would leave the Cowboys an extra second round pick to either draft a good receiver to groom, or fill another need for the 2009 season.