The Dallas Cowboys didn't see Laurent Robinson coming last summer, but thanks to Miles Austin's hamstrings and the speed with which he and Tony Romo developed a red zone rapport, Robinson became an important part of Dallas' offense. Now, he's an unrestricted free agent, and the team faces a difficult decision on what to do about him.
In the third installment of their position-by-position look at the Cowboys, ESPNDallas.com tackles the wide receivers. Bryan Broaddus acknowledges Robinson's contribution but "would not be surprised if the front office allows Robinson to walk."
He's made it clear that he wants to return to Valley Ranch and has indicated that the Cowboys wouldn't necessarily have to be the top bidders to keep him. What the Cowboys would be willing to pay for a No. 3 receiver who has proven he can be a quality fill-in starter isn't clear. If the Cowboys don't re-sign Robinson, they'll need to find another third receiver, whether it's in the draft or another free-agency bargain.
I remember No. 3 receiver being a concern for the Cowboys last August in training camp, and I remember talking to Bryan about this issue. At the time, we agreed that it was a small concern, in part because there was always a chance they could find a decent No. 3 wideout on the street (as they did) if they didn't like their internal options, and in part because of tight end Jason Witten's abilities as a receiver.
Witten this past season posted his lowest reception and yardage totals since 2006. I believe part of that was due to the emergence of Robinson, especially as a red zone option. I also think it had something to do with the Cowboys' offensive line struggles, which may have required Witten to spend more time as a pass-protector than a pass-catcher. It's entirely possible that, should the Cowboys let Robinson go, they can replace his production by throwing to Witten as much as they did in prior seasons. And if that's the case, internal options such as Jesse Holley or Raymond Radway might be sufficient replacements. Or they could find next year's Robinson in the free-agent bargain bin again.
The Cowboys need to spend money to upgrade the line and the secondary, and they could stand to spend some on a pass rush. If Austin and Dez Bryant can stay healthy, their concerns at wide receiver are small compared to those in other areas. So if Robinson wants more than No. 3 wide receiver money, or if he wants a long-term commitment, I'm with Bryan in that I wouldn't be surprised to see them let him go.