The New York Giants and their fans might be the only people happy right now as reports are that legendary Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is retiring from the NFL. Witten tortured the Giants more than any other team in his 15 year career and it was glorious to watch.
However, reality is now setting in for the Cowboys. Losing Witten is rough, he is their all-time leader in receptions (1,152), yards (12,448) and games played (239). He was a great leader, a true warrior to the organization and one of the best tight ends ever to lace up his cleats during his career.
But…this is a little dirty. The Cowboys just restructured his contract a few weeks ago, which led them to believe he was coming back in 2018. Witten’s cap hit in dead money is $4.735 million this season. The timing is even worse when you consider free agency is pretty much through and there was some legitimate tight end help to be had in March. Now, all those options are off the market.
The Cowboys had a need to draft a tight end and now it becomes an even bigger issue because they don’t have anyone who brings the receiving ability of Witten. His numbers were declining and his yards after the catch were bad, but he still found the soft spots in the zone and moved the chains. Also, after James Hanna retired recently, the only tight ends left are Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers. There is some blocking upside with Jarwin and Swaim, but neither are the receiver that Witten was. Gathers has the potential as a receiver, but is raw and the team doesn’t seem to trust him yet. All three will now have the opportunity to prove themselves.
The organization must figure out what to do in the draft. Tight end is now more of a need with Witten gone and their strategy over the next two days of the draft must change. As we’ve seen with the Cowboys, adjusting on the fly is not one of their strengths. This is a tough time to get the news that your top tight end isn’t coming back.
There will be time to reflect on Jason Witten’s amazing career with the Dallas Cowboys, but now is not that time. Witten dealt the team a tough hand by walking away and the Cowboys must scramble to replace one of their best players of all-time in the middle of a draft.
Perhaps that’s what they deserve for dumping Dez Bryant so late in the process? Another argument for another time I guess, but Witten has put the Cowboys in a bind. Ironically, he was usually the one to get them out of them, you could always count on Jason Witten to make a big play or catch a huge first down pass to keep drives alive. Now who does that with Dez and Witt gone?
At least we won’t have to watch him false start around fives times a year. Small victories.
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