The Cowboys roster currently has six tight ends as we head to late June. The players are Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna, Dante Rosario, Colin Cochart, and Andre Smith. The team will most likely carry three on the active roster once the season starts and possibly four if the team elects not to carry a fullback. With reductions coming to this position group over the next few months, the Cowboys could be possibly open to a trade.
The New England Patriots come to mind when thinking about logical trade partners for the team. Due to the Patriots clever maneuvering come draft time, the team always has a surplus of picks in future drafts. Rob Gronkowski has undergone numerous surgeries this offseason, with his most recent being back procedure a little over a week ago. His timetable for a return to the field is undetermined, and once he returns his level of play will be unknown. With yesterday’s news of Aaron Hernandez being arrested and charged with murder, and then subsequently being released, the Patriots now have many questions marks at a position group that was among the strongest in the league.
Jason Witten (31), Gavin Escobar (21), and James Hanna (23) are all players that possess good pass catching ability similar to what Gronkowski and Hernandez provide. The Patriots offense is a spread offense where the tight ends are a focal point for the quarterback. The Patriots will need to make a move if they want their offense to be running at an optimal level come this fall. With Tom Brady being 36 by the time the season starts, the Patriots will not want to waste one of the last years of Brady playing the quarterback position.
The Cowboys in recent years have finally started operating to build the team threw the draft and also getting undrafted guys as well. The lone big free agent acquisition was Brandon Carr in 2012. Moving one of the tight ends could give the team more resources as it tries to build the roster and keep it salary cap in control as the cap ceiling has not risen since the new CBA was signed in 2011.
Hanna was barely used last season, and unless the offensive game plan really changes, he won’t play much this year either. The same can be said of Escobar, and fans and critics are still wondering why the team took “another” tight end in the second round when there are so many holes in other places that should have been addressed. Lastly, although Witten has played at a high level for a long time, the time may have arrived for the team to consider cashing him out. The return for Witten might be the best, and Witten may not be able to keep his high level of play up for too many more seasons. This will be an interesting situation to follow in the coming weeks if the Cowboys and Patriots decide to truly have these discussions.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH