The new league year officially begins next Wednesday at 4:00 PM EST, which means that impending free agents will officially be allowed to negotiate deals with NFL teams. While teams are allowed to negotiate with their own soon-to-be free agents, some teams tend to let lower priority players hit the open market before negotiating.
For the Cowboys, that might end up being their tactic with Tavon Austin, who was acquired by the Cowboys last year during the NFL Draft. According to Bobby Belt, Austin has shown up at the Star in Frisco, Texas several days prior to the start of free agency.
Further clarification: Austin had been working out this week at Under Armour in Baltimore, which is his hometown.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) March 7, 2019
So he's chosen to fly back to Dallas to work out at The Star right ahead of free agency.
When Dallas traded for Austin, he had been a receiver with the Rams for five seasons and was considered to be a bust given his top ten draft pedigree and a career high of 509 receiving yards. Dallas said they were going to play him at running back instead and gave him the title of “web back,” essentially looking to use him the way the Cowboys once used Lance Dunbar.
In reality, Austin lined up as a receiver on the vast majority of his snaps and most of his carries came by way of the jet sweep. Injuries limited Austin to just seven regular-season games, although he played in both of the Cowboys’ playoff games. In the regular season, Austin saw 13 targets, eight receptions, 140 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. He also had six carries for 55 yards, but it was the first time in his career that Austin failed to score a rushing touchdown.
Austin was also used as a punt returner, returning 10 punts for 58 yards, including a big 51-yard return in the Wild Card game that helped the Cowboys flip field position late in the game. The 2018 season was also the first time in Austin’s career that he didn’t fumble the ball at all, a show of progress for him.
It’s unclear what Austin’s role with the Cowboys could be going forward, but his speed and quickness offer some upside as an option at both slot receiver and punt returner. It’s possible that Austin’s return to the Star on Thursday is just him wanting to use top notch facilities, but as Belt noted, if Austin was planning on leaving the team in free agency, it’s unlikely he would travel from Baltimore all the way to Dallas right before free agency begins. Perhaps he wants to be right near the action to get a deal done soon after the free agency frenzy starts up.