For Terrance Williams, 2016 is critical to future with or without Cowboys

IRVING, Texas -- Terrance Williams is facing a critical year in his career.

He is in the final year of his rookie contract. He's made an impact on the Cowboys offense since he arrived as a third-round pick in 2013. He has 133 catches for 2,197 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is coming off a year in which he set career highs in receptions (52) and yards (840) and caught three touchdowns.

But is he a cornerstone piece for the future for the Cowboys or is he destined to find a bigger payday elsewhere if he produces in 2016?

The Cowboys committed to five years for $70 million to Dez Bryant last summer. They signed slot receiver Cole Beasley to a four-year deal worth $13.6 million last year.

But the decision on Williams goes beyond the receiver position. On Wednesday, Ezekiel Elliott signed his four-year, $24.9 million deal. The Cowboys have picked up the 2017 option on Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, which is worth $8.8 million. They have the 2018 option to think about next spring on Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin. They would like to sign Frederick and Martin to long-term deals, if possible.

They also have Tony Romo set to make $14 million and Jason Witten set to make $7.4 million in 2017.

What type of money can they afford to pay Williams while not tipping the scales even more to the offense when it comes to cap space?

The Cowboys did not draft a receiver this year -- or last year for that matter. They have more questions than answers behind Williams with Brice Butler and Devin Street as the leading possibilities.

Williams has big-play ability. He can run all day. He has not missed a game or a practice.

Last year he was asked to step up to the No. 1 receiver role when Bryant went down with a broken foot. Statistically, it did not go well but to put all of that on Williams is to ignore the Cowboys' ineffective quarterback play after Romo went down with his collarbone injuries.

With Kellen Moore starting the final two games, Williams had two of his better performances, finishing the year with eight catches for 173 yards, both career highs, against the Washington Redskins.

Williams said he will try not to worry about the future.

“Now, I’m just ready to be quiet and work and let my play speak for it, because you can always talk what you’re going to do and then if it doesn’t go as planned, it’s like a slap to your face,” Williams said. “So I’m just ready to work and just show my play."

To the Cowboys and the rest of the league.