It's hard to believe that a player drafted by Bill Parcells still remained on the Dallas Cowboys roster, but Jason Witten's retirement brought "Tuna" back into discussions this week. Witten, the third-round pick of Parcells' first draft class in Dallas, takes with him Bill's imprint on the franchise.
With apologies to long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who joined the Cowboys in 2005 under Parcells, Jason Witten represents the last major player from that era. He also represented everything that Bill ever preached about professionalism and leadership.
Witten came into the NFL with names you certainly remember; Terence Newman, Al Johnson, and Bradie James. While Newman is remarkably still playing, Johnson's been gone from football since 2008 and James since 2012.
Even players drafted years later by Parcells, such as DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and Jason Hatcher, hung up their cleats well before now. The Dez Bryant era on spanned about half of Witten's career.
If that doesn't drive the point home, this will. Jason Witten's incredible career spanned from Quincy Carter's final season to Dak Prescott's second year.
The juxtaposition of Jason Witten and Quincy Carter on a roster together says a lot about the change that Bill Parcells brought to the Dallas Cowboys. Witten caught his first NFL passes from a quarterback who will always be remembered for personal weakness and wasted talent; two things Jason could never be accused of.
Before Tuna came along, the Cowboys were in a quagmire of failure. They'd gone 5-11 for three consecutive seasons and poor drafting hadn't left them with much reason for hope.
Bill Parcells changed the culture and direction of the franchise forever, and perhaps no single player he added accomplished that more than Jason Witten.
Shows like "Hard Knocks" and "All or Nothing" have given us looks into the locker room like never before. For the Dallas Cowboys, those looks have always shown just what kind of leader Witten's been.
Some of it was just the makeup of the man. But some of it surely came from his first NFL head coach.
Even though the Parcells Era Cowboys and the foundation created never resulted in a Super Bowl, it gave us so much that we've enjoyed over the last 15 years. It gave us guys like Witten, Ware, and Tony Romo, who are as endeared to us as names like Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin despite their lack of postseason glory.
Watching Jason ride off into the sunset just gives me reason to look back on the man who drafted him. Bill Parcells' four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys will never go down with the tenures of Tom Landry or Jimmy Johnson, but they were very meaningful despite the brevity.
There have been a lot of "thank yous" thrown Witten's way this week, and rightfully so. But this one goes to Big Tuna (Parcells, not Jim Halpert) for giving us Jason and other players we can look back on so fondly.
Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason
The draft is done, DeMarcus Lawrence is re-signed, and the bulk of free agency activity has passed. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys have more than enough talent to compete this season, but there is still one last move I'd wish they'd make. Veteran kicker Matt Bryant, still one of the NFL's best even at almost 44 years old, could be the final piece to this offseason puzzle.
The Atlanta Falcons' longtime kicker, and franchise scoring leader, was not retained this year despite another standout season. He made 20-of-21 field goals, with a long of 57, in 2018.
Why Atlanta didn't keep Bryant hasn't been confirmed, but perhaps the team was just looking to avoid hanging on one year to late. But Matt, who ranks eight all-time in FG accuracy (86.2%), doesn't think he's done. He tweeted the following from his personal account in February:
"Over this past year I’ve been asked numerous times about retirement and how I feel. Well, I’m not retiring and I feel fine and plan on feeling even better with some changes to my offseason program!
As of now Matt Bryant remains a free agent, and I think the Dallas Cowboys should be very interested.
If you go up and down this Dallas roster, kicker is arguably its biggest liability. Brett Maher had some highlight moments in 2018, and won two Player of the Week awards, but he also was one of the league's worst kickers in overall FG accuracy.
The problem with Maher is that you can't teach his best skill; the accuracy from the high 50s and even low 60s is incredible. It's a true weapon that you have a hard time letting go of, which was evident last year when Dallas dumped Dan Bailey for Maher at final cuts.
But Matt Bryant might be the best of both worlds. He's been a 91% FG kicker overall this last three years and has made 18-of-22 attempts from 50 yards out or more.
Maher only made 80.6% of his kicks in 2018. He went from 6/7 from long range, but that tells you how shaky he was from closer in.
Those closer kicks are worth the same three points that the longer ones are, and how'd you like it if Dallas lost a critical game because their kicker couldn't make a 35-yarder?
I get the fear factor with an older guy like Matt Bryant. Heck, the Cowboys let Dan Bailey go when he was still just 30. But Bryant hasn't shown the red flags that Bailey did; he's still kicking as well as he ever has.
If nothing else, Dallas has the cap space and circumstances to bring in Bryant for a true competition with Maher. If Brett has improved his game and keeps his job, then that's awesome. But why not add some pressure now, though a position battle with one of the all-time greats, and see what Maher's really made of?
Seasons have been made, and shattered, by one kick. Unless the Cowboys have good reason for confidence in Brett Maher's development from last year, they could be carrying a significant liability into a year where they're trying to push for a Super Bowl.
If Matt Bryant could provide even a small amount of additional security, isn't he worth it?
Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend
Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.
One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.
Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.
A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.
Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.
If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.
The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.
Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.
This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.
Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.
But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame
The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.
Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.
Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame.
“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith
2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV
Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!
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