As shockingly as he left just before the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jason Witten returned to the gridiron with an equal amount of surprise as the Dallas Cowboys announced the return of their future hall of fame tight end.
It was a surprise to many, though the rumors persisted throughout the 2018 season, even into the playoffs. Jason Witten coming back provides a necessary veteran presence within the Cowboys tight end group that began to make a name for themselves at the end of last season.
Witten’s return is excellent for the Dallas Cowboys as they attempt to be the first NFC East team to defend their division title since the Philadelphia Eagles run in the early 2000’s.
Getting a player that is as respected as Jason Witten is, with the track record he has, is a huge coup for the Cowboys front office.
As we say each offseason leading up to the draft, the Cowboys will use free agency to fill needs to give them flexibility to focus on players and not on needs. Witten being added to the tight end group with Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin will make for a really solid trio of tight ends that will all get a shot to contribute in 2019.
is Jason Witten still a 100 catch TE in the NFL? Not at all. He’s a serviceable player that can still help you win games.
Here’s how the return of Jason Witten will affect the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys seem ready to pay Dak Prescott a hefty sum of money to be their franchise quarterback. It’s time to start providing Dak with as many weapons as you can get your hands on and despite a year off, Jason Witten will be a weapon in 2019.
He may not be as effective of a player as he was in his prime, but he’s still going to offer the things that have always made Jason Witten great; savvy route running, reliable hands, and toughness in the middle of the field.
In Dak Prescott’s rookie season, Witten caught 69 passes on 91 targets for 673 yards and three touchdowns. When targeting Witten, Prescott had a passer rating of 102.5. Witten turned 33 of his receptions into first downs or 47% of the time.
In 2017, Witten caught 63 passes on 81 targets for 560 yards and five touchdowns. Prescott has a passer rating of 116 when throwing to Witten. Witten caught concerted 26 of his passes into first downs.
It took a while for Dak to become comfortable throwing to Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, but once he found a groove with them, began throwing their way more often. Down the stretch Jarwin and Schultz provided solid play, but in the playoffs, they were largely absent from the passing game.
Witten provides Dak another friendly face in the offense that he can count on in crunch time. It’s especially important if Wide Receiver Cole Beasley walks in free agency. Having someone who can win the middle of the field as consistently as Witten can, is a huge asset.
Though it was first being reported as a one year $5 million contract for Witten’s to come out of the Monday Night Football booth, it was later reported to be a deal for $3.5 million in 2019.
Whatever the number might be is of little consequence when it comes to the salary cap.
If the projected salary cap of $190 million holds true for 2019, at $3.5 million, Witten will only take up 1.8% of the Dallas Cowboys salary cap in 2019.
That number ranks 23rd in the NFL among TEs. If you take Jason Witten’s Numbers overs 2016 and 2017 and average them together, he finishes as a top six tight end option against the 2018 production.
There are a lot of people who feel that this is a big number for a guy who is about to turn 37. Compare that to Sean Lee who will count $10 million on the 2019 cap and will take up 5.2% of the $190 million in cap space. That’s a huge difference between a guy who can’t stay healthy in Lee and a guy who hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season.
Jason Witten is coming to the Cowboys on a relatively cheap contract. There’s little risk to bringing him back and seeing what happens.
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett gets one of “his guys” back in Witten. Those two have been together forever. Witten is a player and a leader that Garrett can rely on to get his message across and reinforced on one of the youngest teams in the NFL. IF you scroll social media for even a bit, you can see how much the players love Jason Witten and are excited about his return.
2019 could very well be Jason Garrett’s final season in Dallas as he was not offered a contract extension this offseason. Garrett needs to find playoff success this year for the Cowboys to re-up him for the future. Bringing back a veteran presence like Witten, and going big in free agency, is huge for Garrett. The Cowboys have built through the draft for years without taking any bites out of the free agent pool. With a deep safety market that includes Earl Thomas and Landon Collins, the Cowboys are looking to upgrade at that position to continue pushing toward a sixth Lombardi.
Monday Night Football Viewers
I hate to take a shot at Jason Witten, because he’s one of my favorite Cowboys, but he wasn’t good on Monday Night Football, and that may be generous.
Typically he seemed awkward and several times he said the wrong thing. Like when he said, “pull a rabbit out of his head.”
It was fun seeing Witten calling games, but slightly painful to hear him doing analysis for ESPN. There’s zero doubt that he knows the game and knows it well, it’s just his delivery never seemed comfortable.
The Monday Night Football experience looks like it could get better if the ESPN casting people pursue either a Peyton Manning or Kurt Warner or Nate Burleson.
Because he flopped in the booth, he likely saw that his future in the league was going to be as a coach. That’s no knock on Witten. It takes a different type of talent to analyze the game and then share that analysis in a smooth and entertaining way. Witted just didn’t seem to have it.
Now. He gets to return to the field and restore his good name as Jason Witten the football player.
Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz
No matter how you slice it, the move to sign Jason Witten our of the booth will negatively affect the snap counts of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Even if Witten only plays 25 snaps a game that will cut into Jarwin and Schultz’s snap count.
According to Warren Sharp’s SharpFootballStats.com, the Dallas Cowboys lined up in 11 personnel 70% of the time. Their 500 plays in that personnel grouping were third in the NFL behind the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts.
When the Cowboys threw the ball, they did so out of 11 personnel 82% of the time. When they ran, they used 11 personnel only 53% of the time.
This is where things are going to get tricky. Of the other 30% when they weren’t in 11 personnel, the Cowboys used multiple tight ends 21% of the time or for 182 snaps.
The Cowboys used a single tight end 77% of the time.
So, if Witten is only coming back to play about 25 snaps a game, that’s 400 snaps over the course of the season. Meaning he’ll be taking some single tight end alignment snaps from Jarwin or Schultz.
I think the Dallas Cowboys really like Jarwin and Schultz. It’s possible that Witten is more of an insurance policy if the coaches don’t like what they see from Jarwin or Schultz. The coaching staff will get them on the field as much as possible to see if either can stand out as a starting option in 2020.
Every snap they get this offseason, during training camp, the preseason, and the regular season will be incredibly valuable in proving they are the long-term answer at tight end.
The snaps they’ll get however, just shrunk.
Team “sign Tyler Eifert” took a hit yesterday with the news of Witten’s return to the Dallas Cowboys.
Eifert is a name that has been thrown around a lot since he posted an Instagram video of him working agility drills. As the brother-in-law to Zack Martin and with the Cowboys having a need at TE, Eifert looked to be a perfect opportunity to find a low cost-low risk option in free agency, freeing up the Cowboys to go another direction in the draft if they do choose.
Witten, seemingly has taken that mantle from Eifert as the Cowboys veteran insurance policy to the two youngsters.
It’s not impossible that the Cowboys still pursue Eifert, but if they didn’t that would be a damning statement to how they feel about Jarwin, Schultz, or both.
2019 Tight End Draft Class
The 2019 draft class is loaded this year. There are potential starters as deep as the fourth round by most people’s estimations. It’s been rumored that the Cowboys were going the address the tight end position. Most Cowboys fans figured that meant through free agency or the draft.
Little did we know they were going to go shopping in the booth.
Tight ends who are likely to be slotted in the second or third round likely saw a place where they could be drafted fall off the table.
Now, if the Cowboys want to draft a TE, they can wait until the later rounds of the draft to do so. They aren’t locked in at 58 or 89 into taking a tight end. And that’s exactly where they like to be.
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Obviously it remains to be seen just how well this move will turn out for the Cowboys, but I’m optimistic. If they’re serious about limiting his snaps to get Jarwin and Schultz on the field, it will Ben a good move as they try to develop a couple of players who showed flashes of pro level production on 2018.
There hasn’t been a player who fully embraced and embodied the identity of the Dallas’s Cowboys in the 2000’s. He’s been an iconic player for the team and personifies everything that Jason Garrett wants his team to be about.
Who knows what the production will be on the field. It may not be that great. The intangibles that Jason Witten brings to an NFL locker room are hard to put a price tag on.
One thing is for certain, having number 82 back out on the field is a big win for the Cowboys and Cowboys Nation.
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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