Can Cowboys pay Laurent Robinson?

INDIANAPOLIS -- With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant under contract through 2016 and 2014, respectively, the Cowboys have to figure out a way to pay free-agent-to-be wide receiver Laurent Robinson this offseason.

Austin and Bryant will cost $6.3 million against the salary cap in 2012, but Austin’s cap number shoots up to $8.3 million in 2013. Bryant’s cap numbers in 2013-14 are about $3.2 and $3.4 million.

Can the Cowboys afford to “pay” Robinson, too?

“You’ve got to put, ‘Pay them what?’ before you can really answer,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We don’t have that today where we are.”

The Cowboys cannot sign Robinson, who led the team with 11 touchdowns in 2011, until free agency begins because he signed a “minimum salary benefit” contract last year.

“It’s a handicap, no question about it,” Robinson’s agent Harold Lewis said. “He loves being a Cowboy and would like to stay, but I really think there is going to be a good market for him.”

Jones and coach Jason Garrett view Robinson as a starting type of player because of how many snaps the No. 3 receiver plays in a game. Austin and Bryant have had health issues that have limited them the last two years, which makes the spot even more important.

“So he’s valuable,” Jones said of Robinson.

If Robinson signs elsewhere, the Cowboys would have to add a wide receiver either through the draft or in free agency. Jones heaped praise on Andre Holmes, who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

“We have a very good young receiver that we’re really proud of and he’s a factor in what we do here with Robinson, not to diminish what Robinson did for us this past year,” Jones said. “He has a real knack of keeping a play alive and that works real well with [Tony] Romo.”

To think the Cowboys could turn the No. 3 job to Holmes, who was undrafted out of Hillsdale, or any of their other receivers left, such as Jesse Holley, Dwayne Harris or Raymond Radway, who missed last year with a broken ankle, would seem to be too much of a gamble.

“Same kind of gamble we had with [Dan] Bailey,” Jones said. “Just any coach or anybody will say, ‘The guy has never played, how can you pencil him in?’ It is but you’ve got to take them … There’s no way you can put a team on the field and not play with players that haven’t played before in the NFL.”