Cowboys issue highest tender to WR Austin, but longer deal possible

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys gave restricted free agent Miles Austin the highest possible tender offer Thursday, requiring any team that signs the Pro Bowl wide receiver to give up a first- and third-round pick as compensation.

The move, which was expected, likely means that Austin will return to Dallas next season. The receiver essentially has been offered a one-year contract for $3.168 million, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he'll consider giving Austin a longer, more lucrative deal.

The Cowboys made tender offers to 11 of their restricted free agents and signed another to a one-year contract. The only player left out: kicker Shaun Suisham, who struggled after replacing Nick Folk late in the season.

The only other restricted free agent whom Dallas gave a first-round tender offer was defensive tackle Marcus Spears. However, his was at the "original draft choice" level, which is for less salary and a second-round compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Six players received second-round tenders: safety Gerald Sensabaugh, defensive ends Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher, nose tackle Junior Siavii, wide receiver Sam Hurd and center Cory Procter.

The rest of the tenders were to center Duke Preston (fourth round), safety Pat Watkins (fifth) and offensive tackle Pat McQuistan (seventh). Those three, and Siavii, were tendered at the "original draft choice" level.

Cornerback Cletis Gordon wasn't tendered, but he re-signed with the Cowboys for one year. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Dallas also has two exclusive rights free agents -- defensive back Alan Ball and linebacker Steve Octavien. Its only unrestricted free agent is guard Montrae Holland.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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