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miles austin contract | The DC Times

The DC Times

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Last thoughts on Miles Austin contract

Jonathan Bales

In our new DC Times blog, I briefly discussed why the contract given to Miles Austin was the smartest move Dallas made all year.

Just after writing that, I noted that ESPN writer Calvin Watkins (who I really like) just tweeted, “To sign 2 WR to nearly $100 million worth of contracts blows me away.”

I’ve heard the same sentiments echoed a lot recently. . .how can the Cowboys sign Miles Austin to such a hefty contract when they already dished out so much cash to Roy Williams?  It isn’t business-savvy to put so much capital into one small component (the wide receiver position) of your company, is it?

Well no, but only as it relates to future decisions.  That is, if you were to build an NFL franchise, you wouldn’t want to throw 90 percent of the cash into 10 percent of the positions.  “Stars and scrubs” teams have shown to be inferior to more balanced squads (sorry, Miami Heat).

The fact that Williams already has a deal, though, should mean absolutely nothing to Dallas in terms of their willingness to sign Austin.  The retroactive thinking invoked in using Williams’ deal as justification to hold back on Austin’s is illogical.  In terms of a business, Williams’ contract is a sunk cost.  Like it or not, that money is gone.

This same sort of irrational thinking is abundant around the league.  How many times have you heard a team hint that they won’t cut a guy in August because they already paid him a big bonus in March?  Teams think their previous investment dictates future decisions, but this isn’t poker–your investment isn’t coming back.

Instead, teams need to look forward and ask, “Is Player X worth Y amount of dollars in the future?”  Because they aren’t going to regain their initial investment (as opposed to a poker player who can regain the chips he has already wagered), any past decisions should have no bearing on a team’s future ones.

For Dallas, the only thing that they needed to worry about concerning Austin’s contract is Austin–not Roy Williams.  That isn’t to say the deals of certain players can’t at all affect those of others, but rather that past decisions should have no influence on future contracts.


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Miles Austin’s 2009 Reception Breakdown

Jonathan Bales

On Friday, I posted a breakdown of Roy Williams’ 2009 catches, explaining why he was far superior over the middle of the field as compared to the sides.  Today, I’ll do the same for Miles Austin.

Austin was obviously the Cowboys’ best receiver last season, and perhaps the team’s MVP.  Who knows where the Cowboys might have finished the year if Austin hadn’t broken out in Kansas City in Week 5?

Recently, coach Wade Phillips has insinuated that Austin might be the Cowboys’ primary slot receiver in three-receiver sets.  At the very least, he is going to see far more action there than he did in 2009.

I think the move is a good one.  Austin is already a quick cat and he’s lost nearly 10 pounds off of last year’s playing weight.  A quicker Miles Austin?  Uh oh.

Now of course Austin will not be in the slot all the time, even in three-receiver sets.  The best solution, I believe, is to rotate different players into the slot at different times (and that includes Patrick Crayton).  In crucial third downs, for example, it may be best to roll with the reliable Crayton inside, while utilizing Austin’s play-making ability might be the best decision if the offense is seeking the “home run.”

Moving players around the football field through both pre-snap alignment and motion will also make it easier for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to create mismatches.  Austin or Felix Jones on a linebacker?  Yes, please.

As you can see in the graph to the left, Austin flourished over the middle in 2009.  He averaged a gaudy 11.43 yards-per-attempt and caught 70.0% of balls thrown his way.  Now, as we mentioned in our analysis of Williams’ receptions, impressive numbers over the middle don’t necessarily translate to superb slot play.

At the very least, we know Austin isn’t afraid to go inside and take a shot from the big boys.  As long as he is able to maintain his strength and toughness despite losing some weight, he should be excellent in the slot for the Cowboys this season.


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Miles Austin Reports to Workouts at Lighter Weight

Miles Austin is in the building.  The up-and-coming wide receiver has joined his teammates at Valley Ranch this week for voluntary workouts.  Surprisingly, he said his absence was not contract-related:

“I was out in L.A. working,” Austin said.  “To be honest, I was really working hard.  I came back the lightest I’ve ever been, in shape already.  I’m feeling really good and looking forward to the year.”

Austin continued, “Not a power play, nothing like that at all.  It just came down to when I was working out there, I was really buying into the workouts.  Not only was I working out with a personal trainer, but I was running hills, running Runyan [Canyon], a lot of things.”

Austin apparently wasn’t lying about working hard–he is currently only 207 pounds.  While the lighter frame could help his speed, we are worried that it might hinder Austin’s ability to break tackles.

Austin weighed around 214 pounds last season, but players generally enter the season at a lower weight than offseason workouts.  Austin may have weighed 217 or more at this time last year.  Also, don’t forget he figures to lose a few pounds during training  camp.

Is this 7-10 pounds of weight loss going to make Austin that much faster?  After all, how much faster can the guy really get?

Still, we trust Austin is doing the right thing.  The organization is surely aware of Austin’s weight loss.  Perhaps his new slimmer body will allow him to be quicker in small areas, providing him the benefit of not having to break as many tackles.


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Miles Austin’s Future in Dallas and the “Poison Pill” Contract

After the Cowboys signed players to free agent tenders, we briefly discussed here why the Cowboys will not let Miles Austin get away. Austin signed a first and third round tender, but he is free to sign with another squad. If Dallas does not match that offer within seven days, Austin would be gone and the Cowboys would receive a first and third round pick from the team that signed him.

The Cowboys, though, are expected to match any potential offer Austin might sign.

But what if they can’t? What if the nature of the contract is such that it is impossible (not just economically speaking) for Dallas to match it?

This sort of contract would contain what is referred to as a “poison pill.” A “poison pill” contract contains characteristics with which one team is able to comply but another is not. The concept began in 1996 when San Francisco signed running back Rodney Hampton to an offer sheet which mandated he must be on the field for 70 percent of the offensive plays the next two seasons.

Hampton’s current team, the Giants, had just drafted Tyrone Wheatley and would be unable to meet the clause without significantly stunting Wheatley’s growth.

That contract offer was never completed, but another “poison pill” offer sheet did go through in 2005 when Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota. Hutchinson’s offer sheet stated he must be the highest paid offensive lineman on the team. Minnesota knew Seattle left tackle Walter Jones’ contract would make it impossible for Seattle to match their offer.

Despite the inherent lack of fairness in these deals, the current CBA states that they are still legal.

So, is it possible that Miles Austin could sign an offer sheet containing such a “poison pill”? Jerry Jones recently addressed the subject, claiming:

That’s always a concern and that’s one of the things that needs to be addressed in the new collective bargaining agreement. Those are called unintended consequences there. What turns into trying to be competitive among clubs and what turns into trying to be fair for a player turns into being a disadvantage for the clubs.

Thus, Jones is aware of the possibility of losing Austin.

Miles Austin should be partying in Dallas for awhile.

Still, the chances of it coming to fruition are extremely low. First, teams are simply not eager to create such discontent and animosity around the league. They may win the battle in securing the player for which they yearn, but could end up losing the war because teams may become less willing to deal with them in the future.

Second, despite Austin’s tremendous season, there are still a limited number of organizations willing to part with two high picks for a player who has yet to start a full season.

Lastly, and most important, the future of Austin is really up to him. He (or more likely his agent) will be very aware of any “poison pill”-containing offers. Miles seems to enjoy playing in Dallas, and we doubt he is chomping at the bit to pack up and buy a ticket out of here. While he is undoubtedly seeking a long-term deal, Austin would likely come back to the Cowboys and allow them to match any offer before putting the Cowboys in a no-win situation.

Thus, while it is theoretically possible that Austin may be wearing something other than the silver and blue this fall, it just is not a realistic scenario. Cowboys fans can rejoice in the fact that, barring a catastrophe, Miles Austin will be the team’s number one wide receiver now and in the future.


Mailbag: 3/10/10

Q: What is the Cowboys 2010 schedule?

Danny Cloyd, Upper Marlboro, MD

A: You will have to hold off on buying Dallas Cowboys tickets just yet because the 2010 NFL schedule has not yet been released. However, the Cowboys do know their opponents and the location of their games. Excluding the division matchups, the Cowboys will host Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Jacksonville, and Tennessee. They will travel to Green Bay, Minnesota, Arizona, Houston, and Indianapolis.

The road opponents appear to be significantly better than those teams Dallas will host in 2010. The Cowboys could be legitimate underdogs in five or six games next season, which is a rarity for America’s Team, particularly of late.

We see Baltimore OT Jared Gaither as a possible free agent addition, assuming the price is right.

There is one game for which you can already score tickets, as the Cowboys were selected to play the Bengals in the Hall of Fame game, the first preseason game of the season. This means they will have five preseason games– extra snaps to evaluate the rookies and second-year players.

The official NFL schedule generally gets released around the second week of April.

Q: The Cowboys have been inactive thus far in free agency. Do you see them making any moves before the draft? What about the Ravens’ tackle Jared Gaither?

Adam Reinhart, Erie, PA

A: If the Cowboys do sign anyone before the draft, it won’t be anything major. Jerry Jones recently claimed that the team has a lot of players on their own team they need to lock up long-term before worrying about free agents. We imagine the main focus is Miles Austin, with Gerald Sensabaugh also a priority to sign to a long-term deal.

If the Cowboys do sign a free agent to a big-time contract, we think you are correct about it being Jared Gaither. Gaither is a supremely underrated tackle who gave up only six quarterback pressures in all of 2009 (as compared to Flozell Adams’ 42). The Ravens placed a first round tender on him, but they seem fairly willing to deal him to make room for second-year player Michael Oher.

The Cowboys are highly unlikely to yield their first round selection for Gaither, but it is possible Baltimore could let him go for less. If Dallas could obtain him for, say, their second and fourth round picks, then it is a real possibility. However, don’t forget they would still need to lock Gaither up long-term.

There have also been rumors of Dallas being interested in Colts’ restricted free agent Antoine Bethea. He too received a first round tender, but we believe Bethea has much less of a chance of joining the Cowboys this offseason than Gaither.

We recently detailed why Flozell Adams should remain a Cowboy in 2010, but the lure of a signing a player like Gaither without relinquishing a first round draft pick sounds enticing.

Dallas may take a look at UNC's Cam Thomas in the second round, a player who is a true 3-4 nose tackle.

Q: I have seen you think the Cowboys might use an early selection on a college defensive tackle who would transition to defensive end for the Cowboys. Do you believe the team might draft a true nose tackle as a backup to Ratliff? Do you think moving Ratliff to defensive end in certain situations might justify such a selection?

Justin Shoemaker, Exton, PA

A: Drafting a true nose tackle is not out of the question. The Cowboys cannot be satisfied with their depth at the position (Junior Siavii is the primary backup), and a lengthy injury to Ratliff could have extreme consequences for the defense.

If they do address nose tackle in the early rounds of the draft, it would likely be either Tennessee’s Dan Williams (projected late first), Alabama’s Terrence Cody (projected early second), or UNC’s Cam Thomas (projected late second). All three of those players are over 330 pounds, with Cody weighing (a lot) more.

We highly doubt the team will draft a true nose tackle in the first round, though, because the projected impact of that player would be very limited with Ratliff an every-down starter.

Your suggestion of moving Ratliff to defensive end might combat this problem, but would not be worth the risk. Ratliff was formerly a defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 and his performance was mediocre. His quickness and athleticism are what allow him to flourish at nose tackle. He is also powerful enough to be excellent against the run despite his 305 pound frame.

Thus, the earliest we can see Dallas obtaining Ratliff’s backup is the second round. Cam Thomas is the most likely option there, but it is more likely the team will address the need a few rounds later with a guy like UCF’s Torrell Troup or East Carolina’s Jay Ross (who we had the Cowboys selecting in the seventh round of our first mock draft.