Can The Dallas Cowboys Keep Laurent Robinson?

In the midst of the sloppy and frustrating mess that was the 2011 season, the Dallas Cowboys still had some players emerge and provide us with hope for the future. Sean Lee showed he is a certified, Chuck Norris approved stud at linebacker. DeMarco Murray made many of us eat a bit of crow over whether he was a wasted draft pick. And Tyron Smith showed that a number one pick could be very wisely spent on a tackle.

Those were pretty much cases of high draft picks living up to expectations. But there was also one huge surprise, a late signing that wound up becoming far more valuable to the team than anyone could have predicted. Laurent Robinson came in, and with both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant fighting the injury bug, became the top target when Tony Romo wanted to put one in the end zone. His eleven TD receptions tied him for fourth in the league (third among wide receivers), and he was right there with Dez and Jason Witten for total yards as well.

With him joining Miles and Dez (it is hard to call him the third receiver given what he did), the Cowboys have a potent receiving corps, and the team can focus on other needs in the draft and free agency.

But then, I happened across this article about Mr. Robinson, which didn't exactly make my day.

Wide receivers that catch 11 touchdown passes and go on the free agent market aren't a dime a dozen, and Robinson will command some pretty decent dollars from other NFL teams as a 26-year-old.

Conventional wisdom would say it's a no-brainer, the Cowboys need to do all they can to bring back Robinson, but can you afford to pay the kind of money he'll command for a guy that ideally would be your No. 3 receiver?

I don't think that is a Baby Ruth floating in the punch bowl.

My begging and pleading for this to addressed after the jump.

There has been a lot of discussion around here about Jerry Jones and his role as team GM (much of it encouraged by me). Well, here is a test for his ability.

Jerry - excuse me, Mr. Jones, we need you to work a deal out for Laurent. His production was so consistent, and he and Tony were just so comfortable that this seems like a very smart move to make. There is always a fear that paying a player for one good year will haunt you if he was just a flash in the pan, but the evidence is that Laurent is not a one season wonder. He came to the Cowboys with a strong recommendation from Norv Turner, and his performance was simply one of the best in the NFL, as pointed out on ESPN's Dallas Cowboys Report:

As a result, Football Outsiders' DVOA metric (explained here) scored Robinson's season as 43.1 percent betterthan what we would expect from an average wide receiver. Robinson had the fifth-highest DVOA of the last 20 years for a player with a minimum of 60 pass targets.

And the indications are that he wants to continue wearing the Star, based on his comments from mid-November.

"I would like to, but I'm just trying to play right now and let that handle itself later in the year or at the end of the season or whatever," Robinson said Wednesday. "I'm just focused on this week and getting better everyday in practice."

See? He not only knows how to run patterns, work with Tony and demonstrate some real RKG traits, but he already has the mantra of Garrettspeak down pat.

It is obvious he has earned a higher paycheck than the veteran minimum ($685,000.00) he got last year. And one thing Jerry Jones has repeatedly demonstrated is his ability to find the money to pay players. This just seems like a really good place to make a wise investment for the team.

Having said that, there is obviously a point at which the price tag could become too high if some other team turns their lonely eyes to Mr. Robinson and offers to overpay him, at least given his value to the Cowboys. The problem is that he is more a 1C or maybe a 1B than a 3rd wide receiver for the team, at least based on his contributions. Can the Cowboys afford to pay number one type money to three wideouts?

I don't know the answer on that. Maybe Laurent will consider that his situation with Dallas is a known situation, and there is no guarantee that things would work out any better with a new team than it did at his first three stops. But money talks. And there are some teams out there with some really big cap space to play with. Some of you might have some ideas on what would be a maximum that Dallas could afford to offer him. I would like to see a four year deal myself. Miles pulled in a hefty $8,540,000 in 2011, which is obviously way high, but Dez, on his rookie contract, only got $1,112,500. Is something in the $3 to $4 million range reasonable, and would it be enough? (Pay figures from Fox Sports.)

I just hope things can work out for him, because I like seeing number 81 catching balls in the end zone.

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