Jerry Jones on Austin, Romo futures
Because the Cowboys are in a salary-cap crunch and Austin has been slowed the past two years by hamstring injuries, there had been speculation about the receiver's future with the team. Jones, though, said Austin won't be a cap casualty.
The Cowboys could look to restructure Austin's contract for the second time to gain salary-cap space. Dallas is close to $20 million over the cap and could gain roughly $4 million in room by lowering Austin's $6.73 million base salary to $1.34 million and turning the difference into a signing bonus.
"When you look at the risk of him coming back and having a season that is less impaired by injury, that's much higher odds than us getting a free agent or drafting a rookie out there who can do what he can do," Jones said.
League sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the Cowboys had also scheduled a high number of meetings with wide receivers at the combine and have shown interest in former Kansas City Chiefs free agent wide receiver Steve Breaston.
Austin did not miss a game in 2012, but he was slowed all season by a hamstring injury and suffered hip and ankle injuries that knocked him out of two games. He missed six games in 2011 because of hamstring injuries.
He caught 66 passes for 962 yards in 2012. His six touchdown catches were second to Dez Bryant's 12 on the Cowboys.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team has had "comprehensive discussions" regarding how to keep Austin healthy, focusing on hydration and limiting the practice work of the two-time Pro Bowler to make sure he can play in games.
"He's young," Jones said of Austin, who will turn 29 in June. "My point is, when I look at his ability to cope with any limitation, it's as good as going out and looking at other receivers that have got issues."
There is no doubt who will be Austin's quarterback.
The Cowboys have not had any substantive talks with the agent for quarterback Tony Romo, who is entering the final year of his contract, but Jones said he does not foresee a way in which Romo is not with the team beyond 2013.
In fact, Jones wants Romo to retire a Cowboy.
"That would be the most positive result if we signed him, extended him and then we had him retire," Jones said. "That means we've had some success, and I would like for that to happen."
While there has not been any dialogue between the sides, Jones said the team has a "general sense of what we can get gone" in terms of a contract.
"We aren't sitting down and working on the details of an agreement ... [but] I have a sense of what is doable," Jones said. "Tony has a long history in his career of working to make this thing fit for the team."