IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Austin agreed to terms today with the Browns, who are in need of receiver help, considering the looming suspension of top receiver Josh Gordon.
Cleveland also passed on taking a receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Browns added Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins, but many believed they needed more help at the position, and Cleveland hopes Austin can provide that.
Austin’s success will largely be determined by his health, which was the issue in Dallas. The Cowboys designated Austin a post-June 1 cut to free $5.5 million from the salary cap this year, after he was limited to just 11 games and 244 receiving yards in 2013.
The receiver’s recurring hamstring issues limited what Austin, who was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2009 and 2010, could do the rest of his tenure in Dallas. Austin caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009 and 69 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010.
He played in every game in 2012, but the Cowboys admitted he was not 100 percent in all of them.
He signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Cowboys in 2010, but he never reached the 1,000-yard mark again after that 2010 season.
Despite the decline the last few years, Austin, 29, will go down as one of the best undrafted free agents in Dallas Cowboys history. He ranks ninth in team history with 301 catches, seventh with 4,481 yards and 10th with 34 touchdowns. He also had a kickoff return for a touchdown in a playoff game at Seattle as a rookie.
He made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010.
Prior to signing with the Browns, head coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Austin returning to the Cowboys, but it was certainly not a given after the selection of fifth-round pick Devin Street. The Cowboys appeared ready to turn the page after watching the receiver fight through injuries every year toward the end of his time in Dallas.
“The economics of his situation really factored into the decision we made with him, coupled with his injuries,” Garrett said after the draft. “We’ll look at the landscape when we get done. Miles is a guy that we have great respect for as a person and as a player.”
In Cleveland, Austin will be the most experienced of the receivers available for Manziel, the celebrated Texas A&M quarterback drafted by the Browns in the first round last week.
THE SAFETY VALVE IS OPEN: Dallas Cowboys firmly support young J.J. Wilcox following the 2014 NFL Draft | Dallas Cowboys defense
IRVING, Texas – Perhaps rookie safety Ahmad Dixon will turn into something truly special, but the numbers speak for themselves.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Dixon No. 248 overall, eight picks away from the end of the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday. The fact that they took him means they see something promising in his play, but his position on the draft board doesn’t inspire much in the way of expectations.
That’s by design, to hear it from Dallas Cowboys executives. The safety spot is a position some consider to be a dire need for Dallas, but it’s hardly evident based on the draft strategy. With the No. 16 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had a shot at any of this year’s premier prospects – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor and Jimmie Ward – not to mention a slew of other safeties drafted behind them.
Despite that perception, though, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he was “pretty comfortable” with the outlook at safety going forward with Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, and Matt Johnson.
“I think I was always pretty upfront about that. You can obviously upgrade it if you take them one – I’m not going to deny that. To some degree there was one in the second there we liked a lot, the Northern Illinois safety,” he said. “But after that, we kind of felt like we were getting a lot of what we had. We like J.J., we like Church and we like Heath. We’ll just see how these guys play out.”
That’s an attitude both Stephen Jones and Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones repeated several times throughout the weekend. Specifically, it seems the offseason optimism is for Wilcox to grab hold of the starting role he briefly held in 2013.
The Georgia Southern standout was taken No. 80 overall just last season and endured plenty of ups and downs — from losing his mother in training camp to being named the starter to a knee injury that forced him out of the lineup – during a rollercoaster rookie year.
“We thought we had really hit on a big one right up until he lost his mother – we were naming him the starter the day he left,” Stephen Jones said on Friday night. “Obviously, we couldn’t do that because he’d have to miss quite a bit of time.”
In the meantime before training camp, however, hopes remain high for Wilcox.
“We feel good about him – that’s saying a lot,” Jerry Jones said. “But, boy, he looks good out here and we have high expectations for him.”
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH POST DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys scramble to sign priority undrafted free agents | 2014 NFL Draft Prospects
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys added more pieces in the hours and minutes following the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft than they did in the three days of the actual event.
No time can be wasted as teams attempt to sign priority undrafted prospects, and the quicker all the players can arrive, the better.
“It’s really pretty interesting logistically…we didn’t know who we drafted until two hours ago,” head coach Jason Garrett said immediately after the draft. “Now we go through the process, what’re the rules of the school, have you finished your exam, have you graduated, you guys on trimester system…We just felt like it’s important to get those guys in here, if we can, to have three bonus days with them before we go into that minicamp next weekend.”
First-round pick Zack Martin and fifth-round pick Devin Street were both at Valley Ranch on Monday. Garrett said fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens had exams Monday and Tuesday and would arrive after those, while he expected second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence today (Thursday).
“The benefit is simply getting in a meeting room,” Garrett said. “We start there, introduce stuff to them, then on Tuesday and Thursday, they’ll go out with our veteran players on the field, they’ll get an orientation to our strength and conditioning program. These days are valuable. If you have time with them, 45 minutes in the morning, an hour and a half in the afternoon, a couple-three days, you can really learn a lot of football in a short period of time, and we feel like our rookie minicamp will be so much better as a result of that.”
Garrett said with a week in between the draft and the rookie minicamp, players arriving early can be three or four days ahead of where they would be otherwise before taking the field. Coaches also get a better idea of where the player is at physically.
The conditioning of rookies generally pales in comparison to the veterans, who’ve been in the Dallas Cowboys offseason program.
“That’s something we’ve got to be really careful about, really on Tuesday when they go out with our veteran players,” Garrett said. “Our veteran players have been here, and they’re working out and they’re in shape and they’re in our program, so we feel like it’s important to acclimate them to that, but we have to do it very carefully to make sure they’re ready to handle the work.”
The days leading into the rookie minicamp can be valuable. And while it may be unfair, coaches and personnel evaluators may be less inclined to bring in undrafted players with extenuating circumstances forcing them to arrive late.
“I think it impacts that, because it’s always so tight,” Garrett said. “There’s usually a couple guys you’re thinking about, and if the logistics are right with one guy and everything else is even, you’ll probably take that guy. But for the most part, you’re trying to take the best guys, and you can kind of work your way through some of those situations.”