Sometimes, tough decisions have to be made in the NFL regarding certain players, and it's not always easy to know how to handle things. This is especially true when that particular player has meant so much to the franchise and is a fan favorite. This is the kind of situation the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in right now with TE Jason Witten.
Discussing Witten's play and future with the Cowboys has kind of become the elephant in the room. Nobody really wants to talk about it or think about life without him on the roster. But, I think it's time we open that can of worms.
Now, before I get started, I want to make it plain that this is in no way a reflection of what I think of Jason Witten as a player or as a human being. I have the utmost respect for what Witten has accomplished on the field, and even more respect for what he has accomplished off of it.
He is the epitome of a true professional and an ambassador of the sport, for not only the Cowboys, but the entire NFL as well.
Unfortunately, we have to start being honest with ourselves.
Jason Witten is No Longer the Player He Once Was
Yes, he is still putting up respectable numbers, but he is clearly starting to decline to the point where the Cowboys need to seriously think about finding his replacement.
Some fans around Cowboys Nation believe the Cowboys already have Jason Witten's heir apparent on the roster in Rico Gathers, but I'm skeptical. Gathers hasn't proven anything yet, but has potential.
Regardless, this is something the Cowboys need to figure out during the off-season.
Fortunately, the Los Angeles Chargers were in a similar scenario with Antonio Gates, and the way they handled the situation gives the Dallas Cowboys a blueprint for Jason Witten.
Antonio Gates and Jason Witten have long been regarded as two of the best tight ends in the NFL. Both players have been the face of their respective franchises for over a decade, which makes moving on all the more difficult.
Luckily for the Cowboys though, the Chargers have already started to somewhat phase out Antonio Gates these past couple of years, by drafting Hunter Henry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Gates is still an important member of the organization, but with Henry on board, he has seen less and less playing time these last two seasons.
In 2016, Hunter Henry's rookie season, Antonio Gates played 54.93% of the offensive snaps, compared to Henry's 53.80%. It was almost an even split in playing time, but the 2017 season resulted in Henry receiving more playing time, 56.26% to Gates' 47.04%.
At this point in their careers, Hunter Henry is clearly the better player, but it's obvious the Chargers still value Antonio Gates.
Whether it is out of respect for one of the best players to ever suit up for the organization, or something else, they handled the situation with dignity.
It's something the Cowboys should take note of and do with Jason Witten.
The only difference is the Chargers had a replacement on the roster. That might not be the case with the Cowboys. I personally don't believe there is a tight end on the current roster good enough to cut into Jason Witten's playing time. But, that could change come draft time.
There are a lot of talented TEs in the 2018 draft class. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Dallas Cowboys used one of their 10 draft picks to find Jason Witten's eventual replacement.
That's just what good NFL teams do.
The good news is that now the Dallas Cowboys can look at what the Chargers did with Antonio Gates and apply it to how they handle things with Jason Witten when the time comes.
Will the Antonio Gates blueprint work for Cowboys with Jason Witten?
DL Kerry Hyder Helps Solidify A Re-Tooled Defensive Line
The Cowboys got off to a busy start to week two of free agency on Monday, and capped it off by signing defensive lineman Kerry Hyder to a one year deal.
The former Detroit Lion could be classified as a "one year wonder" of sorts, but when you look closer at his career arc, you see that Hyder can provide upside at multiple positions across the Cowboys' defensive front.
After having 8 sacks and 19 quarterback hits as a defensive end in 2016, Hyder missed all of 2017 with an achilles injury. Last season, under new head coach Matt Patricia, Hyder was moved out of position and forced to play as a nose tackle and 5-technique more often.
So, the last time Hyder was healthy and playing in the role in he will likely fill in Dallas, he was productive. Yes that was a couple of seasons ago but it makes Hyder worth the one year deal he received from the Cowboys.
What exactly is that role, though?
I see Hyder primarily as a rotational 3-technique for the Cowboys. At just 270 pounds Hyder isn't going to play over the center often, and won't be very useful as a 1-technique against the run. He's at his best when lining on the outside shade of an offensive lineman, where he can use his get-off and quickness to create pressure.
Kerry Hyder can also fill in at defensive end if needed, especially when the Cowboys go into a nickel package. Hyder is similar to Tyrone Crawford in his ability to move inside and out, but is a bit better of a pass rusher than Crawford when at his best.
Hyder is a high energy, motor, and character defensive lineman who will fit right in with a Rod Marinelli unit. If it all clicks for Hyder and he regains his 2016 form, the Cowboys will have stolen an impressive pass rushing defensive lineman who can win from multiple positions.
If Hyder is actually a "one year wonder" who is more of his 2018-self with the Cowboys despite being put in a better role to succeed, Dallas can move on rather quickly because he is only on a one year deal.
This is a smart signing by the Cowboys front office as they look to re-tool their defensive line, and avoid being pigeon-holed into over-drafting at a certain position this Spring.
New Cowboys WR Randall Cobb Announces His Signing With A Fantastic GIF
On Tuesday this week it became official the Cowboys would sign former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one year deal worth an estimated $5 million. After his visit Monday morning, speculation around whether and when he would sign was swirling.
Cobb confirmed his intentions to join the Cowboys himself, and did so with some A+ GIF usage on Twitter.
In case you don't know, the GIF Cobb tweeted is Woody from Toy Story, emerging confidently and tipping his cap.
This was Cobb signaling that he his a Cowboy, and he appears excited to be joining America's Team. Cobb also received some social media love from his now former teammates in Green Bay, including wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers had some parting words for new Cowboys WR Randall Cobb
Clearly Randall Cobb made an impact in Green Bay, both on and off the field. Let's hope he can replicate some of that in Dallas now that he has joined the Cowboys.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
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