INDIANAPOLIS -- Just had a nice visit with former Cowboys director of scouting Jeff Ireland, now the general manager for the Miami Dolphins. We discussed a number of topics, including Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Baylor center J.D. Walton, who is projected to go in the second round of April's draft.
But of more interest to our Cowboys audience, Ireland talked about a former undrafted wide receiver named Miles Austin. Obviously, the Cowboys had no clue that Austin would eventually become a Pro Bowl receiver when they signed him in '06. But Ireland told me Thursday that Austin had the size and speed that suggested he might have a chance to make the leap from Monmouth to the NFL.
Former Titans wide receivers coach Ray Sherman (now with the Cowboys) and former Dallas scout Brian Gaine (now assistant director of player personnel for the Dolphins) were the only two people who showed up for Austin's pro day at Monmouth. Bill Parcells loved the fact that Austin was from his old Bergen County neighborhood, but it's not like anyone was standing on the table in the draft room on behalf of the wide receiver. I asked Ireland to tell me who should get the most credit for the Cowboys signing Austin.
"It's always a process," said Ireland, refusing to take the bait. "I was part of that process, but the area scout was also involved. In scouting, you bring things to the bridge and then the group helps you cross that bridge."
Would the Dolphins be interested in signing Austin, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet? Obviously, Ireland's not going to answer that question, but I can almost assure you the answer's no. There's an unwritten rule between teams that have enjoyed close relationships. Bill Parcells and Ireland probably have too much respect for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to make a play for Austin. And even if that relationship didn't exist, it's hard to imagine the Dolphins being willing to give up a first- and third-round pick for a player who's had one huge season.
Ireland has a hard and fast rule in scouting: "Stay away from projection players." In other words, he's not going to start throwing third-round picks at players from Monmouth who have great size just because Austin's career has taken off. Do you think West Virginia quarterback Pat White was a projection player?
I think the Dolphins projected him as a Wildcat quarterback, but some people would question where they took him in the draft. Back with some Tebow talk in a bit.