This is the 33rd in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: It's hard to understate how important Laurent Robinson was to the Cowboys last season, coming on prior to Week Three as a third receiver and later stepping up into a starting role when Miles Austin went down with repeated hamstring issues. The Cowboys might have been able to survive with another warm body in the position, but Robinson emerged with his best season yet, making him quite the intriguing free agent at age 26. The problem? The receiver market is flooded, with some big names sure to change teams.
Notes: Robinson was a third-round pick of the Falcons in 2007 out of Illinois State as a raw, size-speed prospect. He posted decent numbers as a rookie (37-437-1 receiving) but failed to build on that and was traded in a minor deal to the Rams. Robinson's injury problems followed him there from Atlanta and limited him to 17 games, 47 receptions and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Rams, despite a desperate need for WR help there and a pass-friendly offense in Sam Bradford's rookie season of 2010. Robinson signed with the Chargers following the lockout last season and had a strong preseason but was among the final cuts. The Cowboys signed him and then cut him a few days later before adding him to the roster for the remainder of the season. He rewarded them with his finest season as a pro: 54 catches, 858 yards and a stunning 11 touchdowns as one of Tony Romo's more trusted wideouts down the stretch — all 11 scores happened from Week Eight on.
Positives: Robinson has good vertical speed, is fluid in and out of his breaks and flashed good hands. He also quickly established a rapport with Romo, especially on broken plays, which ended up netting several of his touchdowns. Robinson can win individual matchups outside, often covered by a third corner, and has good acceleration, change of speed and yards-after-the-catch ability.
Negatives: A late bloomer, Robinson too often has been injured through his career, is slight of frame (despite his 6-foot-2 height) and prone to sprinter-type ailments (pulled hamstrings, quads, calves, etc.). He can struggle with getting off the line against press-man coverage and is not a big threat to catch passes over the middle in traffic. The production Robinson put up last season — especially those 11 TDs — was partially the result of teams not shading safeties over the top or not designing their coverages to slow him down. He's almost strictly an outside receiver.
Risk factor: Robinson proved he could play 60-plus snaps per game for the first time in his career and produce numbers commensurate with his talent. He has said, on and off the record, that he would like to remain in Dallas because of the chemistry he says he has with Romo, and Robinson would be shielded there because of the presence of Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, along with the running of DeMarco Murray. But if another team comes along with No. 2 WR money — he'd never be more than a No. 3 with the Cowboys, it appears — Robinson might be forced to re-evaluate his options. He will not be franchised by the Cowboys, but they do appear to have a desire to bring him back at the right cost. Don't be stunned if this happens.