The disgruntled — and often disruptive — wideout got his wish Wednesday when he was shipped out of Denver, when the Broncos traded him to the Dolphins for a second-round pick in next week's NFL Draft, and a second-round pick in next year's draft. Marshall's new team quickly signed him to a four-year contract worth $47.5 million.
Now Marshall suddenly is very rich and living in a tropical paradise. But the ramifications of the trade — and the contract — will be felt throughout the NFL, including at Valley Ranch.
Austin emerged last year as the unquestioned leader among Dallas wide receivers when he caught 81 passes (nearly seven times his previous career high of 13), so his career statistics do not measure up to those of Marshall, who caught more than 100 passes in each of the past three seasons.
But Austin also averaged 16.3 yards per catch and found his way into the end zone 11 times; by comparison, Marshall averaged 11.1 yards per catch and caught 10 touchdown passes.
At nearly $12 million per year, Marshall now is the NFL's highest-paid receiver. After swinging a trade a few weeks ago with the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore signed Anquan Boldin to a four-year, $28 million deal. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald is halfway through a four-year, $40 million deal with the Cardinals.
In other words, premium receivers are getting paid premium wages. Considering he has had just one season on par with the NFL's elite receivers, Austin likely won't get a contract in the Marshall/Fitzgerald tax bracket, but he very well might match or even exceed Boldin's deal, and he deserves to.
The difficulty is that Dallas already has one receiver, Roy Williams, making $9 million per year, and owner Jerry Jones will have to grit his teeth to commit that kind of money to two receivers. Austin is far more productive than Williams, and clearly has the trust and confidence of quarterback Tony Romo, which definitely will not go unnoticed by team management.
Jones has said many times that he has no intention of letting Austin leave the Cowboys, and he almost has no choice. Yes, he could allow Austin to sign with another team, and accept first- and third-round draft picks as compensation, but the decision would seriously decrease the potency of the Dallas offense. Austin not only was the team's best receiver last year, the attention he drew from opposing defenses created room downfield for tight end Jason Witten and the other receivers.
Austin has stayed conspicuously out of the headlines this offseason, and never has gone public with demands to be paid — or, in wide receiver vernacular, "respected" — like the top players at his position. Instead, he has quietly bided his time, knowing he was about to get a sizeable raise over his 2009 salary of just over $1.5 million.
Austin even showed up Wednesday at Valley Ranch to work out with his teammates. While there, the deal Marshall signed with the Dolphins made his upcoming raise grow a little more.
Marshall's Biggest Fan? Miles Austin
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