Austin should be a $9 million man

Jerry Jones confirmed last week that he hopes to sign restricted free agent Miles Austin to a long-term deal this offseason.

Jerry didn't want to discuss details of a possible deal, but it's not difficult to figure out where the negotiations should start.

The Cowboys have set the market for legitimate No. 1 receivers at $9 million per season. That's what they are paying Roy Williams. That's what Terrell Owens would have made if Jerry didn't draw the line in the tablecloth.

By making the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter, Austin proved that he's a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He ought to be paid like one.

The Cowboys will probably counter by pointing out that Austin has only produced at that level for one season. Well, the same could be said for Williams, who is a six-year veteran with only one 1,000-yard season. Except Williams has never had double-digit touchdowns in a season, as Austin did this year.

Austin's stats (81 catches, 1,320 yards, 11 TDs) are comparable to T.O.'s production as a Cowboy. Austin, however, is more than a decade younger and doesn't bring daily drama.

By the standards set by his team, Austin is well worth $9 million per season. Why would he settle for less?

Because Austin is a restricted free agent, the Cowboys have some leverage. They got away with putting the second-round tender on him last year, but there's no way that will happen again. They'd be taking a risk even putting the highest tender (first- and third-round) on him.

If the Cowboys can't reach a long-term deal with Austin, the franchise tag might be their best option. And that's just another indicator of Austin's value. The salary for franchised receivers last season: $9.884 million.