Will the Cowboys franchise Miles Austin?

After he hauled in 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in only nine starts last season, setting receiver Miles Austin up with a new contract moved to the top of the Cowboys’ offseason to-do list. But according to ESPNDallas.com, the Cowboys might not place the franchise tag on Austin (who is a restricted free agent) this offseason.

The Cowboys have until February 25 to decide whether or not to apply the franchise tag to Austin and pay him roughly $9.5 million for 2010. If they use the tag, they can still work out a long-term deal for the 25-year-old receiver, which would make the most sense given that he became the team’s offensive MVP last year.

If they place a first and third round tender on Austin, the Cowboys will pay him $3.168 million in 2010, assuming that another team isn’t willing to pay that kind of compensation for the receiver. Either way, it’s a safe bet that Austin isn’t going anywhere. He was Dallas’ most consistent receiver last year and he has all the tools to become a legit No. 1 receiver for years to come.

With the threat of a lockout coming in 2011, it might be wise for them just to place the franchise tag on him and worry about coming together on a long-term deal after the new CBA deal is struck (assuming one is struck, that is). That said, players want financial security and the only way to achieve that is by signing a long-term deal with a team. But thus far, the Cowboys haven’t offered one.

Given that Roy Williams made roughly $9 million to catch less than half the balls Austin did for less than half the yards, it’s only fair that Austin be paid as the team’s top wide out. But the Cowboys have options and it’ll be interesting to see what they inevitably decide to do with Austin.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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