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Free-Agent Spotlight: Wide Receiver, Tavon Austin

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Could the Bucs benefit from some speed in their second year under Bruce Arians?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a thought. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the cusp of having a world-beating offense, just need to add a smaller but oh-so-fast wide receiver to blow the lid off opposing defenses. Can’t fail.

Well. This isn’t DeSean Jackson, it may not be Jameis Winston throwing the football in 2020, and either way there will be a much smaller risk if the Bucs were to bring Tavon Austin to Tampa for the upcoming NFL season.

So, let’s do our homework - kudos to those of you who have read this far and aren’t already roasting me in the comments - and see if Austin has something the Bucs could be looking for this off-season.

TAVON AUSTIN’S CAREER THUS FAR

2013 NFL Draft Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Spring of 2013 was a magical time. 2019-20 Super Bowl Champion Eric Fisher was - at the time - just a wee-little first overall selection of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The first five draft picks that year were all pass rushers or pass blockers, and Tavon Austin was the first wide receiver drafted in a class which featured DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen.

Austin would go on to become a vital part of the St. Louis Rams offense, racking up nearly 1,000-yards of offense in 2015 before signing a four-year extension with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

And that, as they say, is when the wheels fell off. In 2016, Austin recorded just over 600-yards of offense. Then in 2017, that number plummeted to just over 300.

By the time the 2018 season rolled around, the love affair between Austin and the Rams was over, and the speedy receiver took his talents to Dallas, where he’s spent the last two seasons with the Cowboys.

In those two years, Austin combined to produced around 400-yards of offense while appearing in 21 regular season games. He continued serving the Cowboys as a punt returner, something he’s done his entire career, but with much less success than he had early on with the Rams.

So now, he finds himself on the cusp of 30-years old, and likely in search of his third NFL franchise. Could it be Tampa? Let’s examine.

WHY IT WORKS

The Bucs could use some speed, and a punt returner. While he’s surely lost a step or two at thirty-years old, he’d still likely compete to be one of the fastest players on Tampa’s roster if he joined the squad.

His numbers have dipped, and his salary will dip with them. More to come on that.

Overall, Austin fits a niche need for the team. Fast guy who can potentially stretch the field in an offense that likes to hit big plays. I envision the team could also look to use him similarly to the way the Green Bay Packers used Ty Montgomery to differing levels of success.

BUT...

At this point, Austin is one of those guys who will either work out really well, or not at all. There doesn’t seem to really be a middle ground where he could turn in about 400-yards of offense in one season with a couple of splash plays that help win a game or two.

He’s either going to find a system and roster that helps get him back to the 700-yard range, or sit in the 200-yard range and essentially hold an active spot until something better comes along.

WHAT’S THE COST?

Very low. I can’t imagine he’ll have any guarantees which would prevent a team from releasing him outright if it didn’t work out. The risk is going to be all on Austin, and really none on whichever franchise he signs with.

A team could decide to throw a minimal amount of guaranteed money in an incentive heavy deal which would hold more cap space than most would expect, but again, hold almost no threat to the franchise if they decided to part ways.

Austin played for Dallas on a one-year contract with $500k in guarantees which held a $1.6M cap number in 2019.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

Are Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich looking for a gimmick? We saw a few occasions where quick passes and screens worked well for the Buccaneers in 2019. Adding more of those types of plays could benefit the team in 2020 as well.

We saw some jet sweeps in early training camp practices, and couple times during the season. Usually, it was Chris Godwin running those reps. Godwin isn’t as quick and fast as Austin, and if he’s still faster than the star wideout, then it could become a reasonable part of the offensive game plan.

The real question is, is Austin a potential upgrade to the offense over Scotty Miller?

MAKE THE DECISION

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v St Louis Rams Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I’ve laid out the situation as best I can at this point in the off-season. So what do you think, Bucs fans?

We’ve all witnessed Tavon Austin gashing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in a classic ketchup vs mustard contest. Do you want to see him playing for the red side next time around?

Poll

When it comes to Tavon Austin, what would you have the Buccaneers do?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Sign him, no matter what.
    (5 votes)
  • 38%
    Make an offer, but keep it reasonable.
    (41 votes)
  • 15%
    Invite him for a cup of coffee and see where it goes from there.
    (16 votes)
  • 24%
    Call him up if there’s a need after the draft.
    (26 votes)
  • 16%
    Don’t need him.
    (18 votes)
106 votes total Vote Now