Tavon Austin

Release Candidate: Tavon Austin

In 2013, the Rams were blown away by the blazing speed of Tavon Austin and used the No. 8 overall pick draft to secure him. In 2016, the Rams inked him a four-year, $42MM extension, making him the 12th highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL at the time. Today, Austin finds himself on the Cowboys’ roster bubble. 

Austin still possesses game-changing speed, but injuries continue to hold him back. Last year, a groin pull limited him to just seven games in which he caught eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, which more or less sums up his career to date – Austin put up a DeSean Jackson-type yards per catch average, but couldn’t stay on the field.

Austin also holds appeal for his ability to play out of the backfield and serve as a slippery returner, but both roles seem to have been filled in Dallas. The Cowboys tapped Memphis product Tony Pollard in the draft to play as the change-of-pace back behind star Ezekiel Elliott and return kicks. Meanwhile, newcomer Randall Cobb is slated to be the Cowboys’ main slot receiver.

Wide receivers Amari CooperMichael Gallup, and Cobb are locks for the roster and Allen Hurns isn’t far behind in the pecking order. That leaves one, or possibly two, WR spots on the 53-man roster, and Noah Brown and Jon’Vea Johnson both seem to have a leg up on Austin, who was limited in OTAs and minicamp.

The Cowboys re-upped Austin on a one-year deal in the spring, but the pact includes just $500K guaranteed. Unless Austin can quickly prove that he is healthy and ready to make an impact, he’ll likely be released in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Re-Sign WR Tavon Austin

The Cowboys are keeping wide receiver Tavon Austin, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Clarence Hill Jr. of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that it’s a one-year deal, although financial terms of the deal are not yet known. 

The Rams made Austin the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft after being blown away by his blazing speed. So far, Austin has yet to live up to his draft billing, but the Cowboys are still intrigued by his ability. Last year, Austin notched just eight catches in seven games, but he averaged 17.5 yards per grab.

He also has the ability to make plays out of the backfield, as evidenced by his career 6.8 yards per carry average. The Cowboys talked up Austin relentlessly last offseason, and insisted they were going to get him involved on offense after acquiring him. That never really materialized, but they’re willing to give it another shot in 2019.

He can also contribute on special teams, and had a 51-yard punt return in the playoffs this past season that almost went for a touchdown. With Cole Beasley gone to Buffalo, Austin should be the team’s primary punt returner in 2019. Austin struggled with a groin injury in 2018 that ended up costing him nine games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Fins, Falcons, Cowboys, Browns

The Dolphins have already ruled out quarterback Ryan Tannehill for their Week 7 contest against the Lions, and the NFL is now investigating how Miami handled reporting Tannehill’s shoulder injury in Week 6, as Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com reports. Tannehill was a full participant in both Wednesday and Thursday practice last week, but was limited on Friday before being inactive against the Bears on Sunday. The league will often look into such cases where injury designations present something of a question mark; some clubs are subsequently fined, others are cleared, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Without Tannehill available, Miami will once again deploy Brock Osweiler, who threw for a career-high 380 yards against Chicago.

Here’s more injury news from around the NFL:

  • Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair his groin injury, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Freeman’s recovery timeline isn’t yet clear, but reports yesterday did indicate that Freeman — who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday — could return later this season. Because he’s now on IR, Freeman must miss at least eight games before coming back. Various health issues have limited Freeman to just two games this season, during which he averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 14 touches. With Freeman unavailable, Atlanta will turn to a tandem of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith in its backfield.
  • Tavon Austin is getting a second opinion on his groin injury in the near future, and the Cowboys will wait to hear that diagnosis before deciding on an injured reserve move, tweets Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram. Austin, who Dallas acquired from the Rams earlier this year, has lined up at both receiver and running back this season, managing seven receptions and six rushes on the year. If Austin is placed on IR, the Cowboys will continue to lean on an uninspiring group of pass-catchers that includes Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, and Deonte Thompson. Dallas would need to find a new punt returner, as Austin has handled all but one of the club’s punt returns.
  • Browns linebacker Joe Schobert will be sidelined for “a little while” as he deals with with a hamstring injury, head coach Hue Jackson told reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Losing Schobert for any amount of time is devastating for Cleveland, as he’s played nearly every snap on defense while ranking as a top-10 linebacker league-wide, per Pro Football Focus. With Schobert down, the Browns will likely deploy Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins as their nickel linebackers. Cleveland’s linebacker depth already took a hit earlier this week when James Burgess was placed on injured reserve.
  • Turning to the college game, Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a neck injury last weekend, according to Nick Suss of the Clarion-Ledger. Metcalf is a redshirt sophomore, so he could potentially enter the 2019 draft if he so chooses. But given his injury, Metcalf may choose to head back to school in order to put more highlights on tape. Per Suss, Metcalf is viewed as a potential Day 2 pick.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys

Although Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz wasn’t placed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp, Philadelphia’s plan for its signal-caller — who tore his ACL in December — isn’t exactly clear, as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer details. Wentz participated in last Sunday’s workout in a limited fashion, and then wasn’t involved in on-field activities for the remainder of the week. Although both Wentz and the Eagles have maintained the third-year pro hasn’t suffered any setbacks, Philadelphia will need to balance its attempts to get Wentz ready with the requirement of preparing backup Nick Foles in the event Wentz isn’t ready for Week 1.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Cornerback Josh Norman‘s future with the Redskins hinges on a number of factors, as John Keim of ESPN.com explains in his latest mailbag. Washington had added depth to its defensive backfield recently, and if Quinton Dunbar or 2017 third-rounder Fabian Moreau proves capable of starting this season, the Redskins could move on from Norman, who inked a five-year, $75MM deal in 2016. Financials, then, play another role in Norman’s fate in the nation’s capital. After counting for a massive $20MM on the Redskins’ salary cap in 2017, Norman’s charge will decrease to roughly $17MM this year and $14,5MM in 2019. Washington would save $8.5MM by cutting Norman before June of 2019, and $11.5MM by designating him a post-June 1 release.
  • Tavon Austin has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Cowboys since he was acquired via trade during the draft, but there’s one area of his game that hasn’t yet been utilized. “All the things you see me doing out here is pretty much what I’ll be doing,” Austin said, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I ain’t touched the backfield yet, but hopefully, eventually if they need me back there, I’ll be back there too.” Dallas picked up Austin, a disappointing former first-round pick, from Los Angeles in exchange for a sixth-round pick, and he’s now expected to be the club’s primary punt returner.
  • The Giants are experimenting by using longtime cornerback William Gay at safety, writes Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. Gay, who spent most of his time at corner over an 11-year career mostly spent in Pittsburgh, would give New York another option alongside Landon Collins and Darian Thompson. Gay, 33, saw a bit of action as a linebacker/safety with the Steelers, and also has experience in the slot, so a move to safety shouldn’t be all too challenging.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Austin, Vikings, Spence

The Seahawks released defensive end Cliff Avril with a failed physical designation yesterday, but it doesn’t sound like the decision was an easy one. Speaking with reporters following the first day of rookie minicamp, coach Pete Carroll reflected on the veteran’s impact on the organization.

“He’s been a great leader. He’s been a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing, stands for the right stuff and been a really high character guy that you can always count on,” said Carroll (via ESPN’s Brady Henderson). “A great competitor in the program. I love him and would like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can because he’s just exactly what you hope to represent you. He’s had a great career with us.”

Avril, 32, said he wants to continue his NFL career.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Speaking of injured Seahawks, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets that safety Kam Chancellor has more neck scans scheduled in June. The veteran landed on the injured reserve last season due to an unspecified neck injury, and reports indicated that the 30-year-old may be forced to retire.
  • The Rams bailed on wideout Tavon Austin, sending him to the Cowboys for a sixth-rounder. While the receiver never lived up to his four-year, $42MM contract, his former organization doesn’t believe his tenure was a failure. “[The deal] was never necessarily to be, hey, a No. 1 receiver,” said general manager Les Snead (via ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez). “But he was a weapon for us on special teams and in the offense. He led our team in touchdowns, and he had a lot of special-teams touchdowns called back. He was just a unique weapon on offense.”
  • The Vikings re-signed veteran cornerback Terence Newman last week, and Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune has details on the new deal (via Twitter). The 39-year-old will earn a $1.015MM base salary and a $90K workout bonus. However, there’s no guaranteed money, and the contract accounts for a $720K cap hit.
  • The undisclosed 2019 pick that the Lions acquired from the Dolphins in the Akeem Spence trade is a conditional seventh-rounder, tweets ESPN’s Field Yates. Miami originally acquired the selection in the deal that sent Jarvis Landry to the Browns.

Cowboys Rumors: Austin, Witten, S, Draft

The Rams and Cowboys agreed on a deal that will send Tavon Austin to Dallas in exchange for a sixth-round pick, and the sides began discussing this trade on Thursday, Stephen Jones said (via Todd Archer of ESPN.com). Jones said the Rams had a third-day pick in mind as compensation for their former top-10 investment, one who renegotiated his pricey contract earlier this year in order to stay with the team that drafted him. Austin will become the Cowboys’ primary punt returner, Jerry Jones said (via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, on Twitter), and will take over those duties from Ryan Switzer — whom Dallas traded to Oakland shortly after the Austin deal was agreed upon. Austin, 27, was a part-time kick and punt returner for the Rams last season. He will also function as primarily a running back with the Cowboys, who envision him taking over Lance Dunbar‘s old role as the team’s primary receiving back. Jason Garrett said (via Machota, on Twitter) the goal will be to get the ball to Austin in a variety of ways, so it sounds like Dallas intends to keep the 5-foot-9 performer in a gadget role.

Here’s the latest from Dallas:

  • While Jerry Jones said Jason Witten would take a few days before announcing a decision about his 2018 status, the owner now is backing off that stance. It may take longer. “As I saw Troy [Aikman] say, that’s his decision, and he’s got the time to make it,” Jones said, via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “He deserves the time to make that. I don’t have a timeline on it. I do know that when we left [Friday], he certainly thought he wanted the weekend to come to some conclusion. … I want to emphasize again how we like our tight ends that we’ve got on the roster that would be on the roster if we don’t have Witten, but certainly Dalton [Schultz] was noted as what we thought was the best blocker of the tight ends.” The Eagles traded one spot in front of their rivals in Round 2 to select Dallas Goedert. Witten may well inform the Cowboys of his decision early next week, but Dallas brass doesn’t appear to be rushing him. The Cowboys selected Stanford’s Schultz in the fourth round.
  • The team wants to bring in competition for Xavier Woods at free safety, Machota tweets. The Cowboys did not draft a safety this weekend but will remain on the lookout for one. This is a unique year to need a safety, with several experienced ones still available. Eric Reid, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro are without teams. However, Machota notes (on Twitter) Jerry Jones declined to comment when asked if Reid would be a possibility for the Cowboys. The former Pro Bowler is in a strange position, being part of the Colin Kaepernick-led protest movement but profiling as a player who is an upper-echelon starter at a lower-profile position. Jones has been a vocal opponent of these protests, probably the leader among the owners against them, so it would be a surprise if Reid ended up in Dallas.
  • The Cowboys were able to draft defensive end Dorance Armstrong in the fourth round, but Jerry Jones said (via Machota, on Twitter) they nearly traded two fourth-round picks to acquire a third-rounder to draft the Kansas pass rusher.

Rams To Trade Tavon Austin To Cowboys

The Tavon Austin era with the Rams looks to be over, and he’ll attempt to restore his career on a team that just lost its highest-profile wideout.

Austin will head to the Cowboys as part of this exchange, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The No. 8 pick in the 2013 draft, Austin will go to Dallas for the No. 192 overall pick.

A slot target/gadget specialist, Austin fell out of favor with the Rams despite being signed to a memorable contract nearly two years ago. He caught just 13 passes for 47 yards during Sean McVay’s debut season, a year after he established a career high with 509 air yards for what was the league’s worst passing attack.

Austin joins a Cowboys team that has some depth in the slot/gadget department, employing Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer. However, Austin’s speed could be attractive to the Cowboys, who are ready to take a chance on him. The 5-foot-9 West Virginia alum has one season remaining on his contract, one he restructured in March in order to stay with the Rams. He’s attached to a $7MM cap number and is signed only through the 2018 season.

For the Rams, they now own an incredible stake in this year’s sixth round. Los Angeles now has seven sixth-round picks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details/Restructures: 3/18/18

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts and restructures around the NFL:

New Contracts

Restructures

  • Rams: Converted Tavon Austin‘s 2018 pay ($3MM base salary, $5MM roster bonus) to $1MM base salary, $4MM roster bonus, and $3MM in incentives ($2MM for game-day active incentives and $1MM in combined rushing/receiving yards) (Twitter links via Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports). Austin can still make $8MM this year if he hits all incentives.

Rams To Retain WR Tavon Austin

The Rams will retain wide receiver Tavon Austin following a contract restructure, according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link). Although Los Angeles had reportedly been set on trading or releasing Austin, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported (via Twitter) the club was “intent” on keeping the small-statured wideout.

The Rams could have released Austin immediately and save $3MM against their salary cap, although they would’ve incurred $5MM in dead money. Austin would have seen his $3MM base salary become fully guaranteed on Friday, setting a deadline for a potential transaction.

That $3MM figure is now attainable through incentives, tweets Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com, but those incentives appear to be classified as “likely to be earned,” per Bonsignore (Twitter link). As such, the Rams aren’t likely to see any cap relief in 2018, although they could get a credit in 2019.

Despite the Rams reigniting their offense under Sean McVay after finishing as the league’s worst passing attack a year earlier, Austin managed just 13 receptions for 47 yards last season. However, the gadget weapon did rush for 270 yards and a score.

Los Angeles lost pass-catcher Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs on Wednesday, and while Austin could conceivably help replace Watkins, the Rams are likely to turn to fellow wideouts Josh Reynolnds and Mike Thomas, instead.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Still Trying To Trade WR Tavon Austin

Despite reports that the Rams were going to release Tavon Austin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that the organization is still looking to trade the wideout.

A deal is unlikely to happen, and La Canfora notes that plenty of teams are waiting for the receiver to be cut. However, considering some of the money that’s been thrown around to free agent receivers this offseason, an interested team might see incentive in trading for Austin, instead.

Austin signed a four-year, $42MM deal in the summer of 2016, and the wideout was set to earn a $3MM salary and $5MM roster bonus this upcoming season. If he is indeed cut, Austin will hit the Rams with a $5MM dead-money charge, but the team will also save $3MM against the cap.

While the Rams offense improved in 2017, Austin wasn’t nearly as productive. The wideout hauled in only 13 receptions for 47 yards last season, but the versatile weapon did rush for 270 yards and a score.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.