The Cleveland Browns announced on Thursday afternoon that Ray Farmer and company has signed former Dallas Cowboy WR Miles Austin to terms. Details of the contract have not yet been released.
Upon hearing the news, many NFL fans will likely recall Austin’s breakout 2009 season followed by a strong 2010 campaign. Over the course of those two seasons, Austin averaged 1,180 yards and 9 touchdowns to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl in each year. Some really considered Austin to be in the top tier of receivers at this time, even with his short track record.
Unfortunately, his last few seasons have not been as kind to him. From 2011-2013, Austin has accumulated 1,766 receiving yards and has caught 13 total touchdowns, compared to his 2,361 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns that he piled up in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Austin reached his lowest depths last season, when he put up just 244 receiving yards on 24 receptions, enough for a 10.2 YPC average. Austin also failed to find the end zone in the 11 games he made an appearance in.
Austin’s recent struggles can easily be blamed on two main factors: injuries and an unfavorable offensive system. Austin has been the recipient of some bothersome hamstring injuries that can be traced back to 2011. Hamstring injuries can be devastating to a wide receiver’s career, and that could very likely be the main reason for his decline. On top of the nagging injuries, the Cowboys began playing with a more Dez Bryant/Jason Witten-oriented offense that left Austin in the dust at some points, specifically in the 2013 season.
However, as we have seen so many times before, some players benefit particularly well with “a change of scenery.” While for some it is just the presence of a new team, in Austin’s case, a new role in the offense might improve his performance the most. With the potential year-long suspension of Josh Gordon looming over the franchise, the veteran presence and bounce-back potential of a wide receiver like Miles Austin will fit in well with the Browns’ receiving corps.
Austin looks to join Nate Burleson and newly acquired Earl Bennett as the key contenders for playing time at the wideout position.