Sure, he'd be a lot happier if he was the one — not New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees — who had the chance to lean into the camera Sunday night and announce he is the one heading off to Disneyworld, or Disneyland, or wherever the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player gets to go.
Coming off a season in which he went from an amusing side story from a school (Monmouth) nobody had ever heard of to being a Pro Bowl receiver who was the only downfield threat the Cowboys had, Austin has the good fortune of being a free agent.
Talk about a strong performance in a contract year.
Prior to the 2009 season, Austin was seen as a complementary receiver who could be perhaps a third option, with a gift for contributing on special teams every now and then. But he broke out this year, catching 81 passes (second only to tight end Jason Witten's 94), and led the team with 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 81 receptions were more than the combined totals of the No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers, Roy Williams (who caught 38 passes) and Patrick Crayton (37), and his 11 receiving touchdowns almost matched their combined 12.
Austin doesn't quite the leverage to name his own price, but he's in an awfully good position. Should he walk, the Cowboys will need to acquire at least one receiver, and probably two, as his departure would leave the team without a proven big-play receiver, and rest assured, even though he is a restricted free agent — meaning Dallas owner Jerry Jones can match any offer Austin receives from another team — some owner out there will be so enamored with Austin's penchant for big plays that a mega-bucks offer will come from somewhere.
But there are three things keeping Jones from offering Austin the moon:
• Austin has been an elite receiver for exactly one season. Had he performed before like he did in 2009, it might be a little easier for Jones to write a big check.
• Williams makes an average of about $9 million per year, so if Jones chooses to apply the franchise tag to Austin — which would guarantee Austin a salary in the range of $9.5 million — that would mean he will shell out around $18 million to two wide receivers. Even if the speculation that next year will be an uncapped season comes true, that's still a lot of cash for two players at the same position.
The fact is Jones simply can't allow Austin to skip town. With Jones wielding the franchise tag as his own leverage, chances are good the two will reach an agreement on an extension that dwarf's Austin's 2009 salary of $1,550,590. Jones will argue that will Austin doesn't merit the $9.5 million salary the franchise tag would fetch for Austin, while Austin's agent will argue that as the team's best wide receiver, who is just 25 years old, deserves the stability of a long-term deal.
By all accounts, Austin loves Dallas. He is liked by players and coaches, professes to love the city and is a fan favorite. While Jones might grit his teeth on the idea of a big-bucks deal for a player with one year performing at an elite level, he also loves stars, and like it or not, Austin is a star, and has the potential to join the ranks of the NFL's elite. They'll get it done.
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