Mailbag: How does trade for Austin work?

It's time for our Cowboys weekend mailbag.

Here's the best of the best:

Q: Trading a player. If Terrance Williams shows he's a starter and the Cowboys are comfortable with Dwayne Harris in the slot, then use Miles Austin as the example. If the Boys traded him to another team for a draft pick, what are the rules? Does his entire contract go to the other team? How much are the Boys accountable for? How does a trade like that work? What would be the salary-cap hit for this year and next? David (Florida)

A: The Cowboys are not trading Austin for a couple of reasons: 1. Financial. They just restructured his deal, and NFL teams rarely trade players after that procedure is done. 2. The Cowboys still need him. While yes, Dez Bryant is an emerging talent, the Cowboys have some unproven players in the receiving corps. Austin is getting a $5.8 million signing bonus this season in addition to an $840,000 base salary. He's signed through 2017. I would think 2014 ($5.5 million base salary) or 2015 ($6.68 million base salary) might be the years when he gets cut.

Q: Will Doug Free be with Dallas after June 1? Allen Hudson (Hideaway, Texas)

A: Not sure if Hideaway, Texas is East Texas, or maybe South Texas, but I'm sure you're having a good time there. Free's status is up to him, really. If he takes a pay cut, he stays. If he doesn't, the team will release him. But the longer he waits, the more leverage he obtains because possible replacements get taken off the market. As was the case on Sunday when the Miami Dolphins signed Tyson Clabo. Eric Winston remains on the market, and the Cowboys do have interest. I think if Free wants to remain with the Cowboys he's going to take a pay cut.

Q: What are your thoughts on the lack of depth on the defensive line? Why didn't the Cowboys draft anyone, considering the age of the starters and their injury history (and Jay Ratliff's DUI arrest)? Jerry G. (Israel)

A: I was surprised the Cowboys didn't address the defensive line in the draft. There was a moment at which the Cowboys could have moved up and grabbed Sheldon Richardson or picked Sylvester Williams, who was available at No. 18. The Cowboys went with an offensive lineman, getting center/guard Travis Frederick from Wisconsin at No. 31. There is some depth along the line with Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber and Rob Callaway, but, outside of Lissemore, this group is unproven. Of the four starters, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher don't have contracts for 2014, and Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware, who are now in their 30s, are coming off an injury-riddled 2012 season. The good news is the Cowboys' front is talented and in its early 30s. The bad news is the backups are basically unproven.

Q: Hey there, Mr. Watkins: just curious how much better you think our defense will be in 2013 from the standpoint that we have a lot of injured players returning (Church, Lee, Carter, Ratliff etc.)? Blake Nelsen (Havre, Mont.)

A: The defense is talented, especially in the front seven. When you get Sean Lee and Bruce Carter back full time, that's such a big step in the right direction. Lee and Carter are the 1-2 punch in the defense. The Cowboys believe a healthy Ratliff bolsters that front from a pass rush standpoint. Church was an emerging talent before tearing his Achilles tendon last season. It's fair to say the Cowboys lost some games because their defense wasn't totally healthy. If the defense had gone through the season totally healthy, maybe Rob Ryan is still the defensive coordinator.

Q: Calvin, longtime Cowboys fan here. You're around Jerry Jones: Do you think that he has an awareness that the Cowboys have become the laughingstock of the league due to his poor decision-making and inability to make solid football decisions as a GM? Gary (Dallas)

A: I can think of some other franchises, like the New York Jets, who have made some poor decisions themselves. Jerry Jones is a respected GM, and you can second-guess every GM in the league. The better ones are in New York with the Giants, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay, and now I'm starting to like what's happening in St. Louis. Jones has made some good moves. Got to give him credit for drafting Lee, Carter and Bryant. You can question his draft decisions, like with everybody else across the league, and he's struggled in this area the past few years. The problems with the Cowboys stem from his inconsistency as a GM. He's not going to fire himself, so the moves he makes are something die-hard Cowboys fans have to live with.