Dolphins targeting Miles Austin?

A story was posted Friday on dallasnews.com in which Todd Archer of The Dallas Morning News lists several reasons he thinks the Miami Dolphins won't pursue probable free agent Miles Austin.

But the reasons given seem to point the other way — that the Cowboys should be very leery of the Dolphins going after Austin.

Assuming there is not a new collective bargaining agreement in place by March 5 — and that's about the safest bet there is at the moment — Austin will become a restricted free agent. The Cowboys could eliminate all doubt about Austin's home address for next year by slapping him with the franchise tag, which would get him a one-year contract of about $9.5 million. But, as Archer points out, the team doesn't have to. The Cowboys can offer him the highest tender allowed under the current CBA, just under $3.7 million, and ensure that if any team signs him to an offer the Cowboys choose not to match, Dallas would receive the other team's selections in the first and third round of April's NFL Draft.

Archer is correct that there is no use in the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Austin. After he led the team with 81 receptions, 1,320 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns, Austin's camp will squawk that their client deserves more than Roy Williams and his five-year, $45 million contract.

They'll be right, but they won't get it.

But the compensation also suggests that Miami football czar Bill Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano won't go after Austin because of Parcells' relationship with Jerry Jones simply isn't accurate. The column suggests that Parcells' loyalty to Bill Belichick explains why Dallas didn't try to snag then-New England kicker Adam Vinatieri. That might be true, but Parcells is, if nothing else, fiercely competitive, and able to separate his business from his personal relationships.

With all due respect to Vinatieri, who is one of the premier kickers in NFL history, Parcells views game-breaking offensive and defensive players differently than he does kickers. Parcells, like any coach, will lament the lack of a good kicker, but to many, even the best of kickers is viewed as a necessary evil. A top-flight receiver, on the other hand, can be a game-changing weapon who helps a young quarterback (like, say, Miami's Chad Henne), and forces a defense to resist the urge to stack the line of scrimmage in an effort to stuff the running game.

If he determines Austin is a weapon his team — which lacks a top wideout — simply has to have, Parcells surely would go after him. He'd sign Austin to a huge offer, and wait to see if Dallas matches. In the ensuing press conference, Parcells would explain the decision to go after "the player," even at the risk of taking on his friend Jones, was based on business and wasn't anything personal.

Of course, there's a chance this all becomes a moot discussion, because Jones has said he has no intention of letting Austin get out of town, and that he fully intends to sign his new star to an extension. If that happens, Parcells and the Dolphins never get into the mix.

But if Jones comes in with an offer that Austin and/or his representation deems an insultingly low offer, and the negotiations get contentious, prompting Austin to look elsewhere. If that happens, the Cowboys would be wrong to assume that Parcells' personal feelings toward Jones would preclude him from diving into the Austin sweepstakes.

Parcells' job in Miami, just as it was in Dallas, was to make his team better in every way possible. He knows that, and Jones knows that. Should Parcells decide Austin is a free agent he has to pursue, he will. Likewise, Jones might cringe at the idea of having to match a huge offer, but if it needs to be done, he will. As the DMN article points out, the Cowboys would receive the 12th and 73rd overall picks in April's draft if Jones decides not to match whatever offer the Dolphins give Austin. In terms of last year's draft, that would equate to Denver getting Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno and … Jacksonville getting William & Mary cornerback Derek Cox.

Sure, the draft is an inexact science, and teams miss on high choices and hit on late-round selections. But for a Dallas team with nothing else even close to a No. 1 receiver, that is nowhere near enough compensation.

There is no reason to believe Jones won't live up to his promise to keep Austin in town. But the idea that Parcells won't pursue any player he feels can help the Dolphins, can be acquired for what he deems suitable compensation and fits within Miami's salary structure, is shortsighted, at best. If he and Jones are as close as they claim to be, their friendship will survive, because if the roles were reversed, Jones would do the same thing.

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