Dez Bryant already impressing in Dallas

Count Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips as someone who is already impressed with first round pick Dez Bryant.

From the Dallas Star-Telegram:

“Dez Bryant is an absolute talent, you don’t see that many come in and look that good that early,” Phillips said.

“In 33 years (of coaching) there’s not very many that I can say look that talented at their position for a three-day period.”

It’s high time Bryant received some positive press. He was made out to be a huge character risk before the draft, even though he hadn’t done anything wrong outside of showing some maturity issues. But as Phillips points out, he has a ton of talent – too much talent for him to have slipped into the bottom of the first round.

He has a long way to go to prove that he can play and stay focused, but Bryant is off to a nice start. Along with Miles Austin and Jason Witten, Bryant gives Tony Romo a plethora of weapons to throw to in the passing game. And after finishing second in the league in total offense, the Cowboys should once again be explosive again this season.


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Is Miles Austin worth two draft picks?

Let’s play NFL GM for a moment, shall we? Would a bona fide No. 1 receiver in his prime be worth first and third round compensation, plus the primo dollars it would take to sign him to a long-term deal? Because that’s the question many general managers face this offseason when it comes to Cowboys’ receiver Miles Austin.

Thus far, Dallas has been adamant about not wanting to use a franchise tag on Austin (a restricted free agent) this offseason. What they’ll probably wind up doing is placing a $3.168 million tender on him, which means they have first right to match any offer made by another team. If another team offers more money and the Cowboys don’t match it, then Dallas is awarded a first and a third round pick as compensation.

Legit No. 1 receivers that are 25-years-old aren’t easy to find. That’s why a team might be inclined to part with two draft picks in order to acquire Austin and make him their franchise receiver. After all, Austin appears to be a sure thing and as we all know, there is no guarantee that prospects (no matter how high they’re selected) will pan out.

But if I could step into the GM shoes for a moment, I think it’s ridiculous to give up a first and third rounder to acquire a receiver – no matter how good of a player he is. Teams that have had consistent success often build from the inside out, meaning after they settle their quarterback need, the offensive and defensive lines take priority over the skill players. I’m not downgrading the value of a No. 1 receiver, but they wouldn’t be a priority over other positions on my team.

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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.


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Cowboys seeking long-term deal with Austin

The Cowboys are trying to lock up restricted free agent receiver Miles Austin to a long-term deal.

From ESPN.com:

On the day DeMarcus Ware signed his six-year deal, executive vice president Stephen Jones expressed hesitation about entering negotiations with Austin. Of course, at the time, Austin had just finished setting an NFL record with 421 receiving yards in his first two starts.

“Some of the biggest mistakes that are ever made are when you pay a guy off one year,” Stephen Jones said then.

One could argue that it’d be a much bigger mistake for the Cowboys to risk losing a humble young star who led the NFC in receiving yardage despite being a reserve for the first five games.

That’s apparently Jerry’s line of thinking at this point.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Austin’s representatives could use Roy E. Williams’ five-year, $45 million deal as the starting point for their negotiations.

Austin proved that he wasn’t an early season fluke when he tore up the second half of the year. The 25-year-old has the size, speed and playmaking ability teams covet in a receiver and there’s no way Dallas can allow another team to outbid them now that he’s a restricted free agent.


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NFL Divisional Playoff Preview: Sunday

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
1:00 pm ET
TV—FOX

Of any player that needed the bye week, you have to believe 40-year-old Brett Favre did the most. He might not say so, because in many ways, the man who had an incredible “comeback” season (4202 yards, 33 TDs, 7 picks) thinks he’s still 18. Dallas, meanwhile, has been on quite a roll ever since they upset the Saints in New Orleans in Week 15. They are playing lights out on both sides of the ball, and Tony Romo (whose boyhood hero growing up in Wisconsin was Favre) along with Jason Witten and Miles Austin are going to give the Vikings’ sixth ranked D all they can handle. On defense, the Cowboys rank ninth overall, and even though they are 20th against the pass, that’s skewed a bit because they terrorized Donovan McNabb for two weeks straight, and virtually shut down Drew Brees’ Saints for three quarters in that upset game. The Vikings will likely turn to all-world RB Adrian Peterson a bit more than usual, to try and soften Dallas’ front seven for Favre to take shots down the field with big receiver Sidney Rice and speedy rookie Percy Harvin. And pass rushing specialist Jared Allen will have fun chasing Romo all day. This one has all the makings of a classic, and it’s even more intriguing because these teams have not played each other since 2007. Upset? Don’t be surprised. THE PICK: COWBOYS 27, VIKINGS 20

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
4:40 pm ET
TV—CBS

Imagine a tug of war where the other team lets go of the rope halfway through the contest. That’s basically what happened to the Jets when the Colts pulled their starters in Week 16, and a 15-10 Colts’ lead turned into a 29-15 Jets’ upset. Since then, the Jets routed the Bengals 37-0, when Cincinnati also basically rested their players most of the game. But rookie head coach Rex Ryan doesn’t think his team had any advantage or luck or whatever, and he proved it last week when his Jets went into Cincinnati and upset the Bengals at full strength, and on the road, 24-14. That #1 defense of the Jets is no mirage, so Philip Rivers and that fifth ranked passing offense will really have their hands full. They do have LaDainian Tomlinson, but based on the fact the Chargers are ranked 31st in rushing offense, either LT or his supporting cast is not the same. So the Jets will likely try to stop Rivers, along with big receivers Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates first, but they can’t make the mistake of paying no attention to Tomlinson or the speedy change-up back, Darren Sproles. The Jets will try and use their top ranked run game to speed up the game, and with the Chargers ranked 20th against the run, they just might be able to do that a bit. What’s likely here is that the team which makes the most mistakes will lose. And the Jets are due for one of those games. THE PICK: CHARGERS 23, JETS 13

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