Just yesterday it was announced that Jason Witten is coming out of retirement and returning to the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. This stunning development certainly changes the landscape for the tight end position, but it doesn't mean the Cowboys won't make any moves during the offseason.
Before Thursday, many felt that Dallas would make improving at TE one of their top offseason priorities. Their 2nd-round pick in the 2019 draft, which is highest one that the Cowboys have this year, has been seeing a lot of tight ends in mock drafts. There's also been a lot of talk of veteran free agents like Jared Cook or Tyler Eifert heading to Dallas.
Other than the newly resurrected Witten, the Cowboys have Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers under contract next season. Last year's starter, Geoff Swaim, is an unrestricted free agent.
Some have rushed to the assumption that Jason's return settles things at TE for 2019. It gives you the veteran mentor and at least two young prospects in Jarwin and Schultz, with Gathers' likelihood to return next year still hard to project.
But Jason Witten's name is far greater than the last few years of production, and now he's been away from the game for a year. Can Dallas really count on him to improve things from last year?
Bigger question; should the Cowboys really be out of the TE market this offseason?
The team's intention for further offseason business may be seen in the modest contract that Jason's signed to come back. According to reports, Witten is only going to cost $3.5 million in 2019.
That doesn't prohibit the Cowboys from adding other talent. It actually may set them up perfectly for adding someone like Tyler Eifert, a former first-round pick who's been battling health issues for three seasons.
Getting Witten back helps mitigate the risk on Eifert. Plus, Jason appears ready to accept a lesser role than what he's had in the past.
Cowboys source says Jason Witten will play somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 snaps per game, and will share time with the young TEs on the roster, so as to not stunt their growth.
To put that in perspective, the Cowboys had about 67 offensive snaps in each game last year. If Witten truly plays around just 25, that would clearly make him rotation player.
Do you want those other 40-45 snaps going to the likes of Jarwin and Schultz, or do you want some more upside?
There's a bit of hype around Blake Jarwin coming off his December play and especially the huge game in the team's regular season finale. He posted a whopping 117 yards and three touchdowns against the New York Giants.
That final month was the bulk of Jarwin's 2018 production; 20 catches for 220 yards in four games. The three scores in New York were his only touchdowns the entire year.
However, in Dallas' two playoff games, Blake had just five catches for 32 yards total.
How much of that is on Scott Linehan and Dak Prescott, and how much is on Jarwin? That's hard to answer.
Before yesterday's big news with Jason Witten many were projecting a TE to the Cowboys with their 58th-overall pick in the second round. Some will probably back off from that now, but that might be an overreaction.
There's not enough evidence yet to suggest that Jarwin or Schultz can be the long-term starter. If Dallas doesn't want to go the route of adding a free agent like Eifert, drafting someone high to rotate with and learn from Witten still makes a lot of sense.
One name that has been commonly mocked to the Cowboys for 2019 is Jace Sternberger out of Texas A&M. But it's a TE deep class by almost all analyses, so perhaps the Cowboys can afford to wait until a later round to get a player of consequence.
The key point here is that the surprising return of Jason Witten doesn't mean the Cowboys are done at tight end this offseason. It gives them some security, but it doesn't solve the issues of trying to speed up the offense and get more big plays in the passing game.
How much Dallas likes Blake Jarwin is arguably the biggest factor here even with Witten's presence. That will dictate how much action they have in the tight end market this offseason, whether it's in free agency or the draft.
BREAKING: Ezekiel Elliott Handcuffed After Incident with Security Guard
TMZ has released footage of Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott being handcuffed and escorted by police after an altercation with security at a Las Vegas music festival over the weekend.
Elliott was not arrested and no charges have been filed.
Ezekiel Elliott handcuffed but not charged after incident at Las Vegas music festival https://t.co/NJQ6csGgnv
The video shows Zeke engaged in what appears to be an argument with a female companion. Elliott is seen following her through the crowd, and then security starts to get involved after Zeke moves his body to block her from walking away.
One of the security guards says something that attracts Elliott's attention, causing him to move in closer. The guard falls backward from minimal contact. It as soon after that police get involved.
There isn't much here that would cause trouble for the average player, but that's hardly Elliott's situation. He's one of the most prolific stars in the NFL and already has history with the league for domestic violence and personal conduct issues.
Remember, no charges were filed when the NFL gave Elliott a six-game suspension in 2017 after accusations from an ex-girlfriend of domestic violence.
We will have to wait and see how Roger Goodell chooses to treat this latest issue.
Ezekiel Elliott ‘Excited’ About Dallas Cowboys ‘Promise’ in 2019
There's a lot to look forward to as the team gears up for offseason training activities and minicamp. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys look like a potential contender in the NFC after making it to the divisional round of the playoffs before falling to the NFC representative Los Angeles Rams by a score.
The offseason additions the team has made in addition to the draft have many in Cowboys Nation excited about the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2019 season. That includes Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
Ezekiel Elliott: "I'm just excited about the group of guys we have. I'm excited about the talent we have on this team. I'm excited about the leadership group we have. I think we have a lot of the right pieces. I think we have a lot of promise for this season.
I think the Cowboys are right to be optimistic about their team heading into the season. They had one of the top 10 defenses in the NFL and an offense that was trending in the right direction over the last half of 2018.
On both the offensive and defensive side of the football the Dallas Cowboys have gotten better as a team.
The offense sees the return of Travis Frederick to the middle of the offensive line and though Joe Looney was good, he's no Travis Frederick. Frederick's return will improve communication along the offensive line and improve their run blocking up the middle; an area where the Cowboys struggled with consistency in 2018.
Another veteran returning to the Cowboys for 2019 is Tight End Jason Witten. Though he's slowed down some at 38 years old, having his leadership and veteran presence on a team attempting to make a deep playoff run is very important. Witten's as steady a player as has been in the NFL and should still be able to make plays in the run and pass game.
The additions of Randall Cobb and Tony Pollard give the Dallas Cowboys a more versatile group of players for new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore to toy with. This versatility will allow them to keep teams off balance. With Randall Cobb, the Cowboys will be able to move Amari Cooper around the formation in order to find favorable matchups in the passing game. Tony Pollard gives the Cowboys a durable gadget option and big-play threat in the run and pass game. Pollard's ability as a returner could help the Cowboys get more favorable field position in 2019.
Ezekiel Elliott himself stands to benefit a great deal from the additions and changes the Cowboys made to the offense. Pollard is an upgrade as a running back to Rod Smith, so the Cowboys can cut Ezekiel Elliott's workload a little and keep him fresh by expanding on the two series a game the coaching staff used to give Smith.
On defense, they added Robert Quinn to a defensive line that already boasts one All-Pro pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence. Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill provide depth to an interior that struggled against the Rams in the playoffs and the Indianapolis Colts during the regular season. The defensive line.
In addition to all that, the Cowboys will get to see what kind of progress their 2018 rookie standouts make in year two.
Leighton Vander Esch was a second-team All-Pro in 2018 and should have won defensive rookie of the year with his play. Connor Williams looks to have gained the necessary size and strength to play left guard in the NFL. A second offseason at guard should help him to improve at his new position. Michael Gallup was a revelation in the third round of the draft last year. After slowly being worked into the lineup over the first half of the season, he emerged as the Dallas Cowboys second wide receiver.
The NFC East and the NFC is a tough place to play. Every year, it's an uphill climb to win enough games to win the division or make the playoffs, but the Cowboys have put themselves in a fantastic position to do just that. Though no team has been a repeat winner of the NFC East since the early 2000s, the Dallas Cowboys have built a team that will be able to compete with any team in the NFL.
From the roster to the coaching staff, the Dallas Cowboys have built a squad that should get anyone excited. Are there questions as the team heads to training camp? Of course. But every team has questions at one position or another. The Cowboys have done an excellent job to minimize those questions through free agency and the draft and have one of the best teams in the NFL on paper.
The excitement that Ezekiel Elliott feels is warranted. The Dallas Cowboys do have a lot of promise as we look ahead. Now as they get ready to start ramping up practices, it's time for Elliott and the rest of the team to go prove it.
And I have a feeling they'll live up to that "promise."
DT Leonard Williams May be Available, Should the Cowboys Explore a Trade?
Per a report by Rich Cimini of ESPN, the New York Jets may be exploring a trade for their star defensive lineman Leonard Williams. With Williams set to hit free agency in 2020, the theory is the Jets may not be interested in locking up Williams long-term after just drafting Quinnen Williams with their top five selection in 2019.
Here's what Cimini had to say in his report:
"There's already talk in league circles that Gase could be looking to move on from Williams, who will be a free agent after the season. He's due to make a guaranteed $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. Gase hasn't said anything about Williams that would spark speculation, but it's not hard to connect the dots when examining the defensive line situation."
Rich Cimini - ESPN.com
Williams has been a really good player for the New York Jets who has played 3-4 defensive end and some defensive tackle for the Jets in his four-year career. A former sixth overall pick has had as many as seven sacks and as few as two sacks a season, but he's played in all 64 games in his career, starting 63. He's stayed healthy and been productive on a Jets defense that hasn't been very good over the last few years.
For the Cowboys defense, he would project as a 3-technique with the ability to be the Cowboys 1-technique in passing situations. Among interior defensive lineman, Leonard Williams finished 21st in run stops per Pro Football Focus and sixth in total pressures with 53. Williams was third among interior players in QB hits with 16 ahead of Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Lineman Chris Jones and Seattle Seahawks Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed. For reference, DeMarcus Lawrence had 63 total pressures and 11 QB hits in 2018, while Tyrone Crawford had only 37 total pressures.
The Dallas Cowboys have been working to reinforce their defensive line this offseason after struggling in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams when the Cowboys gave up over 200 yards rushing. Though they like Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins, they obviously weren't satisfied with the going into 2019 with just those two in the Dallas interior.
In free agency, the Cowboys added Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder and then drafted Trysten Hill with their second-round pick. They also added Daniel Wise, a player that was seen as a fourth or fifth rounder in most people's minds as an undrafted free agent and will compete for a roster spot.
As intriguing as Covington, Hyder, Hill, and Wise are in addition to Maliek Collins and Woods, Williams would be an immediate upgrade at 3-tech and the Dallas Cowboys should explore it, even if they don't plan on resigning him beyond 2019.
The Cowboys could swap expiring contracts by sending Maliek Collins to New York and a draft pick. Collins is unlikely to be resigned by the team in the 2020 offseason as they have plans for Hill as their 3-tech of the future.
The Dallas Cowboys showed with the trade for Robert Quinn that they're alright going after the one-year rental player. Leonard Williams would make their defense better for 2019 and while they have high hopes for Trysten Hill, Williams is a known asset right now and wouldn't prevent you from giving Hill snaps at 3-tech.
For a team hoping to make a Super Bowl run, adding a player like Leonard Williams makes a lot of sense. He's another disruptive player that would immediately improve your pass rush and also helps your run defense. The Dallas Cowboys have a team ready to win now, so now's the time to go get players that help you do so.
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