With the return of the ever mighty Jason Witten, the Dallas Cowboys have broken the internet once again, luring the future Hall of Fame tight end out of retirement.
Witten is set to return for the 2019 season at $5 million, AS A PLAYER. Yep, after a year in the Monday Night Football booth, Witten has ended his retirement and will play for the Cowboys.
He sits currently in 4th place all-time in receptions, trailing Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez, and Larry Fitzgerald. He’s also the all time franchise leader in receptions and receiving yards, with 12,448 yards, and it only expects to get bigger.
The obvious questions arise when thinking about it. “Is he the same Jason Witten from 2017?” “Will he be as effective after a year of rest?” The answer is no, well not completely. No he isn’t in the same shape as he was 2 years ago. His last game was December 31st of 2017, when he had 2 receptions for 17 yards vs the Eagles. Since then, he has been in the Monday Night Football booth for over a calendar year, basically watching football. He’ll automatically step in as the starter, but be prepared to see him go into a time share with Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, Dalton Schultz, and possibly even Rico Gathers.
But will he be effective enough for this offense to make a difference? Instead of chasing a more versatile tight end such as Tyler Kroft, Jesse James, or even Jared Cook who’s 32 years old, they go after a tight end who hasn’t played a snap in over a year, who has been standing in the MNF booth literally watching football. Witten has never been a freak athlete, but rather a hard working player who has had steady production throughout his career. The workload will be the question, and the type of usage is to be the same as before: a short yardage tight end with reliable hands and savvy route running, even though he has lost a step in the speed department.
Now that the Cowboys signed a tight end, however effective he may be, the front office will feel some sort of comfort about focusing on other positions in the upcoming free agency and NFL Draft. With tight end on the back burner, the Cowboys will look to boost their secondary, bulk up on offensive line and wide receiver depth, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, they can figure out a way to pay Tank Lawrence before it’s too late. They have offered a deal and are “confident we’ll get a deal done,” per Stephen Jones in Indianapolis. If he does not take the offer, and they cannot come to agreement on a contract, then he will be subject to the $20.5 million franchise tag.
DeMarcus Lawrence has become the most important part of this entire offseason for the Cowboys. Since the suspensions of Randy Gregory and David Irving, the depth on the defensive line has taken a hit. This is the position the front office will need to focus on throughout the entire offseason. Yes, they have Tyrone Crawford, Dorance Armstrong and Taco Charlton in rotation at the defensive end position, but if one of them get hurt, then you’re down to a skeleton crew for that line. Signing Tank is a must, and if the Cowboys want to contend for the championship, they will need to do it asap.
Other positions to focus for the Cowboys are safety, wide receiver, defensive end, and offensive lineman. Here are a few players to watch in the upcoming weeks.
DEFENSIVE ENDS: Dion Jordan, Benson Mayowa
Although there aren’t any huge names here, Dion Jordan has 8.5 sacks in his 4 seasons, but has the size you look for in an effective rotation piece. He could be a cheaper piece with some experience for this line.
Mayowa is a former Cowboy who worked under Marinelli in the scheme, so maybe a reunion is in the future? He could be very inexpensive for this team looking to fill multiple holes.
SAFETY: Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu
Earl Thomas came out and said he wants to be the highest paid safety at over $13 million per season. Will the Cowboys budge? I don’t think so.
Landon Collins will more than likely go somewhere for $13-16 million per year. He’s a great in the box safety and will help in the run game. The Cowboys will definitely give him a call to negotiate.
Tyrann Mathieu is underrated and could have possibly been a Cowboy had they picked up the phone and called him. He’ll be in the market for $7-11 million per season if the Texans let the hybrid safety walk.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Joe Looney, Cameron Flemming
Both of these guys play for the Dallas Cowboys, and they both could keep the line in great shape depth wise. They know the system, and they could easily step in for a game or two if Tyron Smith or La’el Collins go down with injury.
WIDE RECEIVER: Cole Beasley, Adam Humphries, Chris Conley
Adam Humphries is a little known wide receiver, but he had 76 receptions for 816 yards in the same position as Cole for the Buccaneers.
Cole Beasley is 30, but does he have enough in the tank to re sign? He had over 60 receptions himself, but dealt with soft tissue injuries in the season.
Chris Conley can easily be a good fit if he finds the right system. He only had 32 catches for 334 yards and 5 touchdowns, but he can be a great number 2 or 3 receiver if given the opportunity at just 26 years old.
Cover photo: clutchpoints.com