In what was supposed to be a defensive offseason, the Dallas Cowboys made their biggest investment on the offensive side of the ball. Dallas selected Cee Dee Lamb at pick 17, adding the rookie to a receiving corp that already had two 1,000 yard receivers from 2019. With Lamb in the mix, the Cowboys have one of the top three receiving corps in all of football. You could make a solid argument their top three of Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb is the best in the entire NFL.
Once you get below the top three, things get much more interesting. Currently on the roster behind the big three, Dallas does not have a single receiver who has caught more than 15 passes in their NFL career. Their top candidates for the number four spot, Devin Smith, Noah Brown, and Cedrick Wilson, all have had major issues with staying on the field in their brief stints in the NFL.
Dallas could use some more veteran experience at the wideout spot, and there is a free agent who would fit the fourth receiver role pretty well. That guy is Tavon Austin. After being traded by the Rams, the former first-round pick has spent the past two seasons in Dallas. In his time as a Cowboy, Austin has shown some flashes of the ability that caused him to be drafted in the top 10.
In 14 games last season, Austin caught 13 passes for 177 yards, ran the ball six times for 47 yards, and scored two touchdowns. The former Mountaineer also served as the Cowboys main punt returner, returning 17 punts on the season.
Tavon Austin really turned the Rams secondary into a Keystone Kops routine pic.twitter.com/3ekskMAl9A— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) December 15, 2019
Obviously his production doesn’t blow you away. What Austin does provide is tons of experience in the league, versatility, and a pretty solid track record of staying on the field, playing in 85% of his games since he entered the league.
Austin managed to do some productive things when given opportunities in the Dallas offense. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was able to find creative ways to get Austin involved, and more often than not they yielded positive results. In a Week Seven matchup against the Eagles, Moore called up an option play for Austin, and it resulted in a big touchdown.
Orlando Scandrick had absolutely no shot against Tavon Austin. pic.twitter.com/4osOK4sn27— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 23, 2019
Ezekiel Elliott’s second carry of game. Perfectly schemed with Tavon Austin in pre-snap motion vs. man coverage. Elliott behind Travis Frederick at third level. A tad more patience from Elliott; could have dipped-and-slipped to reach outside. Chance at 75-yard TD. Goes for 12. pic.twitter.com/oCfyS3dAJ9— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 15, 2019
If the Cowboys were to bring Austin back, they really would not need him to do much more than produce the same way he did last season. He brings much more experience than anyone in the group of Wilson, Brown, and Smith, has been able to stay on the field more than they have. His versatility also allows him to play in the slot or outside, or even line up in the backfield like a running back. He is also a guy who can help out on special teams in the punt returner role.
Austin has shown over the past three years of his career that he’s not going to be the guy the Rams envisioned when they took him in the first round, but if you use him effectively he can make some plays for your offense.
It wouldn’t cost much, and there really is not much of a risk. Bringing back Tavon Austin as a reserve receiver would be a nice under-the-radar move for the Cowboys that could pay dividends down the stretch of the season.