Week 17 of the 2019 NFL season was likely Jason Witten’s last as a professional football player. There are rumors he may try to reunite with Jason Garrett in New York as a tight end for the Giants, but I personally believe his playing days are over. That’s both good and bad news for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys now have to find a suitable replacement for the future Hall of Famer. It’s going to be a little odd to see someone other than No. 82 as the primary tight end. Other than 2018, Jason Witten has been a consistent presence for the Cowboys offense for the better part of two decades. He won’t be easy to replace.
Free agency is a great way to add experienced players to the roster, but I don’t know if the Dallas Cowboys want to go this route to find Jason Witten’s successor. Surprisingly enough, he was just as productive as almost all of the current free agent tight ends on the open market right now. However, there are a few intriguing TEs the Cowboys could be interested in for the right price.
Austin Hooper (Falcons) is arguably the best TE available, but as such his asking price will likely be out of the Cowboys range. Eric Ebron (Colts) is another intriguing option, but like Hooper, he’ll more than likely be too expensive. Then you have players like Hunter Henry (Chargers) and Tyler Eifert (Bengals). Both are starting caliber TEs, but they both also struggle remaining healthy. They could be more affordable, although their reliability is a concern.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe the Dallas Cowboys will find Jason Witten’s successor in free agency.
If I’m being completely honest, I think the Dallas Cowboys best way to replace Jason Witten is via trade. There are several talented, young tight ends around the league right now I believe the Cowboys could trade for. They are either buried on the depth chart with their current team or for whatever reason not being utilized enough.
O.J. Howard (Buccaneers), David Njoku (Browns), and Hayden Hurst (Ravens) are all TEs I think the Cowboys could possibly trade for this offseason. Howard has found himself in Bruce Arians doghouse for whatever reason and the same could be said for Njoku in Cleveland. Hurst on the other hand is simply buried on the depth chart right now. I think all three are starting caliber TEs and arguably an upgrade over Jason Witten.
Compensation is likely the only hurdle from completing any one of these three trades in my opinion. Teams aren’t just going to give up talented players just because they aren’t starters. But, I believe each one of these TEs could possibly be acquired for a 2020 mid-round draft pick. It’s doubtful Dallas can find the same kind of talent with the same pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
2020 NFL Draft
I have studied this year’s tight end draft class and quite honestly I’m not all that impressed. There could be a player, possibly two, that sneaks into the later part of the first-round, but I wouldn’t bet on it. As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, a first-round TE isn’t likely ranked that high on their to do list anyway.
Having said that though, this year’s TE draft class isn’t completely void of talent. There are a few players with starting potential, but that becomes less likely the further along we get into the draft. I honestly have a hard time seeing the Cowboys draft a TE in rounds 1-3. That means they’d have to hit on a mid-round prospect with starting capability. That’s easier said than done.
Any mid-round TE the Dallas Cowboys could draft is going to come with some warts. Whether it’s off the field issues or some question marks about the prospects game, there are going to be red flags way or another. That doesn’t exactly scream starting potential and I don’t think the Cowboys are looking for another developmental prospect. They’ve gone that way before and failed.
Blake Jarwin Promotion?
Could replacing Jason wouldn’t be as easy as handing over the reins to Blake Jarwin? I mean, he has shown flashes over the past few years of being a mismatch player in the passing game, but is it enough? The old coaching regime didn’t trust him enough to increase his playing time, will the new regime think differently?
I really like Blake Jarwin and would have loved to see him utilized more in 2019, but I don’t believe he is starting material. I think he is more of a big receiver then a tight end, and should be used as such. Splitting him out against smaller defensive backs or less athletic linebackers is a matchup problem the Cowboys can exploit. But, as an in-line player he is a liability.
Promoting Blake Jarwin really depends on what the new coaching regime under Mike McCarthy is looking for from their starting TE. Are they looking for a complete player like Jason Witten or someone who can exploit match ups like Blake Jarwin? Unfortunately, we won’t know the answer two that until all the above moves are determined one way or the other.