Cowboys can't sign Laurent Robinson before March 13

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dallas Cowboys do not want to lose wide receiver Laurent Robinson, but they will not be able to re-sign him before free agency begins March 13.

Because Robinson signed a “minimum salary benefit” contract last year in which he was paid $685,000 but counted roughly $463,000 against the salary cap, league rules prevent the Cowboys from getting him under wraps before he can entertain offers elsewhere.

The Cowboys can talk contractual parameters with his agent, Harold Lewis, and would like to meet with him in Indianapolis during the NFL scouting combine, but they will not talk hard numbers now so other teams would know the Cowboys’ bargaining position.

“The conversation with him goes more like, ‘What are you thinking and then we’ll think about it,’” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Robinson has stated his preference is to remain with the Cowboys. He had a breakthrough season in which he caught 54 passes for 858 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns in 14 games. The Cowboys have Miles Austin and Dez Bryant tied up in longer-team deals with reasonable cap figures. Austin is scheduled to count $2.7 million against the cap and Bryant is scheduled to count $3.66 million in 2012.

“We keep our own, young guys that we like, if we have them,” Jones said. “If we have them, then they’re always a priority. Laurent, he’s a guy that’s obviously a priority for us.”