Here at Blogging The Boys, the serious speculation about Miles Austin's long-term future in Dallas began shortly after the Cowboys used the 74th overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft to select Dallas native and Baylor University wide receiver Terrance Williams. During my look at the reasoning behind each selection the Dallas Cowboys made in the draft, I speculated that the local boy would replace Austin no later than his third season in the league due to the incumbent's increasing age and escalating salary.
Williams is most likely going to become the #2 wide receiver in the not so distant future. By the time his third season rolls around, Austin will be over 30 and his base salary will be escalating along with his age. Miles will be making #1 receiver money, but he will never again be the top dog in Dallas, so it behooves the team to consider going younger and less expensive.
Today, due to a combination of those and other factors, including Miles Austin's history with hamstring issues and his 2013 on-the-field performance when he was "healthy" enough to play (24 catches for 244 yards and no scores), it appears that the veteran receiver will become a June 1st cap casualty.
Based on what we have seen during his rookie season, Williams appears to be ready to move into the role that was supposed to be occupied by Austin. Sure he suffered his share of rookie mistakes, but then again, what rookie doesn't? The more important factor is that Williams also experienced an unexpected level of success. He has earned the shot.
Williams was a big-play threat for Romo last season with 12 catches of 20 or more yards. Overall, Williams had 44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns, with three of those scores going for at least 20 yards.
Not only has he proven that he can get it done on Sundays, Terrance Williams has also proven that he is the type of player that Jason Garrett prefers to have on his practice field and in his meeting room.
"He’s a very quiet, serious-minded guy. We think that’s actually a really good trait. He’s really locked into meetings, and if you ask him questions, he’s on top of it. It’s important to him. He’s a good notes taker. And I think that has had a lot to do with the success that he’s had." - Jason Garrett
He works hard on his craft, takes practice seriously, and he is driven to perform at his best; a fact not lost on his All-Pro teammate Jason Witten. The future Hall of Fame tight end was on William's case early on in training camp, yelling at him during practices when the rookie dropped passes or ran the wrong routes. Rather than becoming resentful, the rookie took the feedback to heart and dedicated himself to getting better every day.
I was very critical of him early in camp, just wanted him to understand the level and what we were expecting from him. He's answered the bell. He's fast, he's explosive, strong, smart. He doesn't play like a rookie. He knows he can be a really good player. I my mind, he's played like a starter for a number of weeks now. - Jason Witten
Terrance Williams is ready to take the next step and move into the #2 WR role in Dallas during the 2014 season. He still has plenty of room for improvement, especially in becoming a constant and reliable target for Tony Romo. With Scott Linehan assuming the play-calling duties for the Cowboys and bringing with him an anticipated return to a down-the-field aerial attack (provided Romo is fully healthy), it stands to reason that the second-year wide out will have plenty of opportunities to take his game to the next level.
On the other hand, the immediate future for Miles Austin does not look so bright. As one man advances, another must decline, and with his large contract and corresponding lack of production, Austin, who has fallen from being the 'Boys number one to at least third man in the pecking order, figures to be the odd man out at Valley Ranch. With a younger and less expensive option assuming his his role, parting ways with the former UDFA out of Monmouth University will allow the team to save $5.5 million against the salary cap in 2014. Once upon a time the team thought that he was worth the six-year, $54 million deal he signed in 2010, but after three years of being hampered by hamstrings and decreasing on-the-field impact, Austin has gone from being an asset to becoming a liability for the offense. Come June 1st, the Miles Austin era in Dallas should come to an end.
None of us enjoy seeing someone who has become a fan-favorite have his career with the Cowboys come to an end, especially on a down note. Still, there are only 53 roster slots available and Dallas needs to make some accounting moves to get under the salary cap. It does not make any sense for the team to keep throwing top receiver money into a player who will never again fill the role of being Tony Romo's go-to guy in the offense. It will hurt to see #19 wearing a different colored jersey to finish off his NFL career, but seeing the team suffer from having a wasted roster spot and having cap money tied up in someone who is not providing a positive return on Jerry Jones' investment would hurt much more. To ease the pain of seeing one of our own take the field for another team we can look forward to the time when a local boy steps up and takes his place on the biggest and best stage in Texas.
It is the natural order of things, as one generation fades another steps into the limelight. For the franchise to progress, transition is inevitable. The 2014 season will give us the opportunity to witness this in action, and from where I am sitting, the future has the potential to be very bright.