Is Miles Austin getting too 'old' for Cowboys?
OXNARD, Calif. -- Is Miles Austin, on those two bad hamstrings, also on his last two legs?
"Miles (Austin) is getting old and they want to bring in young guys," teammate Dwayne Harris said this week at Dallas Cowboys training camp. "Dez (Bryant) is still young, T-Will (rookie Terrence Williams) is young, I'm young, and Miles, we don't know how long he's going to be here or how long he's going to last."
The thoughtful Harris doesn’t mean for those comments to come across as harsh as they certainly do. But even as Austin was among the standouts in Sunday's Blue-White Scrimmage in Oxnard, it's true: pro football teams are in the "upgrade business."
So is the former Pro Bowler in danger?
First to Austin's work Sunday. He caught a TD pass in 7-on-7 drills, shining while emerging superstar Bryant nursed a sore hip. Williams had his moments in 2-minute drill time, and newcomer Eric Rogers continued to show big-play ability as a camp surprise.
But none of them were running laps around the "old" Austin, who, by the way, is only 29. He may be on his last contract – as detailed below – but that doesn’t mean he’s on his last legs.
"It's fun getting out here with the kids and showing them how it's done," Austin told me after the scrimmage, a wide smile tempering his sarcasm.
Really, the circumstance requires some insight into the Cowboys' real plans regarding its "elder" in the wide-receivers room and the "kids."
Starting in 2014, Austin's salaries for the final three years on his contract are $5.5 million, $6.9 million and $11.4 million. What Harris is alluding to is the salary-cap appeal of replacing Austin with Williams, a third-round pick who is playing under a four-year, $2.7 million rookie deal.
Now there are cap-hit concerns with Austin. His cap hit jumps from $3.6 million this year to $8.2 million next year ... But that can be adjusted, too, especially if Austin keeps those hamstrings healthy.
"Miles wasn’t himself last year," coach Jason Garrett said of Austin, a two-time Pro Bowler who slipped last season to 66 catches for 943 yards and six TDs. "It’s good to see him with spring in his step."
Williams' time is coming. But it's not coming soon simply because of the money being paid Austin in the next couple years. Strategically, the cowboys need Williams to be a standout replacement of Austin before 2016, when the veteran’s base salary doubles from $6.8 to $11.3 million. The way these deals work, Austin will likely never see that $11.3 ... But he can see a couple more productive years here if his hamstrings allow it.
"You got to bring in young guys," Harris said. "That's what this league is about."
It’s true. But that doesn’t mean you need to get rid of the "old" guys.