Commentary

Re-signing Laurent Robinson is critical

In a pass-happy league, Cowboys can't afford to lose depth at wide receiver

Updated: February 23, 2012, 8:49 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

It's uncertain if the Dallas Cowboys will be able to re-sign wide receiver Laurent Robinson this spring. If they can't, the depth behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin will be lacking.

Robinson led the Cowboys with 11 touchdown receptions and had a stretch in which he caught a touchdown pass in seven of eight games. Of the 58 plays of 20 or more passing yards completed this season by Cowboys quarterbacks, Robinson caught 12 of them.

[+] EnlargeLaurent Robinson
Tim Heitman/US PresswireLaurent Robinson became a solid threat as a No. 3 receiver and led the Cowboys with 11 touchdown catches last season.

The Cowboys need Robinson to become a solid threat as the No. 3 receiver again, much like they had several years ago with Patrick Crayton, who complemented Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn and Roy Williams.

The depth at wide receiver could be strong when free agency begins March 13. Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson and Mario Manningham, among others, highlight a star-studded cast.

Robinson doesn't have quite the skill set as Wayne, Bowe and Jackson, but his 2011 season makes him an attractive choice for any NFL team.

If the Cowboys lose out, here are the candidates to back up Bryant and Austin: Raymond Radway (who is coming off leg surgery), Dwayne Harris (zero NFL catches) and Andre Holmes (zero NFL catches). There is also the possibility of re-signing restricted free agent Kevin Ogletree (who was active but didn't get an offensive snap in the regular-season finale at the New York Giants) and exclusive rights free agent Jesse Holley (who caught seven passes for a 24.1 average).

NFL teams need three corners because the league has become pass-happy. If that's the case, they need three receivers, too.

Last season, Tony Romo threw 249 passes out of a three-receiver set, second-most in the NFL. Romo threw 14 touchdowns and three interceptions out of these sets while completing 67.1 percent of his passes.

The third receiver is just as important as the starters.

Getting Robinson is a must for the Cowboys. If they fail, it's like losing a starter.

Now for the mail:

Q: If you were a betting man, would you place your money on [Anthony] Spencer or [Laurent] Robinson to return to the Cowboys? -- Neil Young (Richmond, Va.)

A: I think Spencer might go somewhere else to play. I'm not sure the organization believes that the $8.8 million it would cost to franchise him is worth it. Letting Spencer test the market is the best thing at this stage. Robinson is a talented player whom the team needs. There is a depth issue at wide receiver if he doesn't return, as we pointed out above. There are questions about the Cowboys' pass rush with Spencer on the team. Getting a younger player with some upside at the 14th pick of the first round would serve the Cowboys better than taking care of Spencer. Q: Why are the Cowboys even thinking about rebuilding the offensive line? It's stupid to even mention it. Someone please tell Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett that the real problem for the Dallas Cowboys is in the defense, not offense. -- David Montes (Spanish Fork, Utah)

A: David, nothing wrong with upgrading the talent along the offensive line. If you have a chance to get an impact player at guard or center in the draft, you need to make that happen. The Cowboys want improved players on their roster. The defense did have issues, but two of their best players reside on the defensive side of the ball in DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. Both units have issues, but protecting Tony Romo is very important.

Q: Hi Calvin, why won't the Cowboys get a real nose tackle and move [Jay] Ratliff to end. This would be killing two birds with one stone. -- Vinny Vinci (Laurence Harbor, N.J.)

A: Vinny, I do believe the Cowboys should move Ratliff to end, but Stephen Jones said at the combine it won't happen at this stage. Jason Hatcher and possibly Kenyon Coleman will start at end, with Marcus Spears getting some snaps, as well. Ratliff wore down as the season progressed. His size -- 6-foot-4, 287 pounds -- is small for a nose tackle; San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga is 6-2 and 330 pounds, and Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji is 6-2, 337. Ratliff needs some help against the pass rush because he's going to get double-teamed. It's a constant theme or problem, depending how you look at it, the Cowboys are faced with every week of the season. Unless they find someone who can fill in for him at nose, Josh Brent maybe, expect Ratliff to remain there. Q: Would the Cowboys consider making an offer to Mario Williams to go opposite of [DeMarcus] Ware since they have some cap room to work with? -- Kallen (Mansfield, Texas)

A: Doubtful. Williams wants to get a big-money contract, much like Ware, and the Cowboys are not willing to do that with holes at other places. I suspect Williams will stay with the Texans.

Q: I've been looking at mock drafts for weeks now. None of them have seemed to come to a general consensus on what position we will pick in April. Realistically, who do you think we take in the first round of this year's draft? Furthermore, do you think we'll be a player in free agency? If so, what additions do you think we make via FA? -- Parker (Austin) A: At this stage, the Cowboys are not sure what they'll do in the draft. It all depends on who's available to them. Jason Garrett said at the combine that the best thing to do is draft the best player available instead of filling a need. Carl Nicks is a possible target in free agency, but he might be too costly. Best thing for the Cowboys to do is re-sign their own free agents, Mat McBriar and Robinson.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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