Thursday sports fans across the country were probably surprised to get an ESPN, Fox Sports or Bleacher Report update informing them that former Dallas Cowboys tight end and ESPN Monday Night Football color commentary analyst Jason Witten was coming out of retirement signing a one year deal with the Cowboys. When I first heard the news I was surprised, even asking myself “What can he do? We saw how he went out.” However the more I thought about it the more I liked the move and I wasn’t the only one.
NFL analyst Matt Miller had this to say about the move. “The Dallas Cowboys needed a tight end-it was one of the top needs on the roster this offseason-but why welcome back Jason Witten for a 16th year instead of addressing it in the draft? With no first-round pick, thanks to the Amari Cooper trade and huge needs at defensive end and defensive tackle, signing Witten allows Dallas to move into free agency and draft period with one major need already crossed off the list. With limited salary cap space and draft capital, the Cowboys can now focus on fixing the defense.”
Let’s break down some of the points Miller brought up that I agree with.
Tight end was one of the top needs
It’s no secret that the tight ends this year were awful, bad at best. The ones that played this year, Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers, combined for 74 catches 762 yards, woeful numbers. A closer look will show that the leader of the group, Jarwin, had 32 catches for 339 yards and three touchdowns on the season. The position has been a staple of the offense and not having a viable option there showed this season. Witten can not only provide a proven presence there but also leadership to a young group. Jarwin and Schultz show promise and having Witten there can only help their development. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.
Huge needs at defensive tackle and defensive end
Randy Gregory, Randy Gregory, Randy Gregory. Ultra-talented on the field, Ultra foolish off it. Gregory and teammate David Irving, who has also battled numerous suspensions and yesterday was suspended by the league indefinetly, were busted the other day with weed. Gregory is now facing banishment from the league and Irving has to be getting close. Both were key parts of a solid defensive line. However, said line could still use improvements. The Cowboys plan to sign star end Demarcus Lawrence to a long term deal which is a huge hurdle to clear. The second hurdle is adding depth. Former first-round pick Taco Charlton has not lived up to expectations. Tyrone Crawford isn’t getting any younger. Maliek Collins has trouble staying healthy and his backups Daniel Ross, Antwaun Woods and Caraun Reid are inconsistent. For the defense to continue it’s level of play they have to add two to three more pieces and having tight end crossed off the list of needs allows more focus and capital on it.
Limited draft capital
Without a first round pick and only one compensatory pick the draft board looks like this:
2nd round- pick 58
3rd round- pick 90
4th round- pick 128
4th round- pick 136
5th round- pick 165
7th round- pick 241
Not the best picks but remember teams like the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks were built off of not the best picks. The Cowboys have done well in the draft the past couple of years with several late round and undrafted steals. Although they rarely do it, they could always trade back and acquire more picks.
One thing is for sure, Witten’s return can only help the Cowboys both on and off the field in what is one of the most surprising yet sound moves of a young NFL offseason.