Fascinating season ahead for the Cleveland Browns: Johnny Backup and Miles Hamstring.
A week after drafting Johnny Manziel and in the wake of losing receiver Josh Gordon to suspension, the NFL’s perennial worst franchise added a former Cowboys’ receiver who never reached his potential – nor earned his salary – because of nagging hamstring injuries.
Austin was cut in March as the Cowboys finally tired of counting on him but being repeatedly disappointed. With the move, Dallas saved $5.5 million under the salary cap and avoided numerous future headaches. Despite the savings, he will still count $5.2 million against the cap in 2015.
It was a quiet end to a career that was once blindingly bright.
Signed as a free agent out of tiny Monmouth College, Austin burst onto the scene under head coach Bill Parcells in 2006. As a rookie he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Cowboys’ infamous playoff loss in Seattle, then grabbed a starting job at receiver when Roy Williams went down with an injury in 2009. In his first start, he caught 10 passes for a franchise-record 250 yards and two touchdowns, including the dramatic 60-yarder to beat the Chiefs in overtime.
Owner Jerry Jones rewarded him with a six-year, $54 million contract during the 2010 season, and it was all downhill from there.
The NFL eventually ruled the contract was an attempt to circumvent the salary cap and cost the Cowboys a $10 million penalty. Worse, Austin’s production – and health – nosedived.
When critics rip Jones for over-paying prematurely, Austin and former running back Marion Barber are prime cases.
In ’09 he caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns, and followed that up with 69-1,041-7 in ’10. He made the Pro Bowl after both seasons, but never again sniffed that production. All because of hamstring pulls, strains and tweaks, he missed six games in ’11 and five last season. He played every game in ’12, but often complained of not being 100 percent and caught 66 balls for 943 yards and six touchdowns.
Last season he played in only 11 games, managing just 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. By season’s end, he was clearly beat out by rookie Terrance Williams and Dwayne Harris.
When he was healthy, Austin was a dynamic deep threat and big play waiting to happen. In his eight years in Dallas he caught 301 passes for 4,481 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 100-yard games.
But impressive stats be damned, when the name Miles Austin is brought up to any Cowboys fan the reaction is short … and not so sweet.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.