Let’s be honest, the Dallas Cowboys have major cap problems going into the 2014 offseason. They are currently about $21 million dollars over the cap with numerous players set to become free agents. But what if I told you that the Cowboys could save over $21 million dollars over the next four seasons on a single player that will be 32 in May, clearly declining, and currently have a highly drafted backup in the wings to play his position? Doesn’t that sound like an easy decision? But what if that player is future Hall of Famer Jason Witten? Does that change your thought process?
I love Jason Witten. I think he is definition of the “right kind of guy” Jason Garrett is looking for. He works hard, knows his role on the team and is the longest tenured Cowboy on the team. Many fans, including myself, wish that he could end his career playing for the Cowboys and absolutely hate the thought of him finishing his career with another team. But does Jerry Jones feel this way? I’m sure he does. But is he bold enough to release one of the team’s best players of all-time and future Hall of Famer? He has done so in the past. Mr. Jones released Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and fired Tom Landry. But the main reason as to why the Cowboys could even consider cutting Witten is that he has clearly been less efficient in the last few years of his career and is no longer a top tight end in the league. Look how he compares to other elite tight ends:
When the Cowboys signed Jason Witten in 2011, he was coming off two incredible seasons of consistency. But since then, his production has dropped since signing his deal, making him an overpaid, veteran who really isn’t living up to his deal. Despite just a year ago when he caught 110 passes, Witten’s inability to separate and make plays down the field has actually slowed down the Cowboys offense. Witten has become a glorified check down option, rather than a true receiving threat.
The other aspect of this situation is the emergence of Dez Bryant and the 2013 draft selection of Gavin Escobar. In 2009 to 2011, Jason Witten’s production was needed more because he was the best, most reliable receiver on the team. But since the second half of 2012, Dez Bryant has become a superstar in the league and moved Witten’s importance down the totem pole. Escobar was drafted to play alongside Witten, but it looks more likely that now he will be groomed to take his place.
Jason Witten will always be a Cowboy and a favorite of mine, but we lilely have seen the best of him and he could potentially become a cap-casualty this offseason. If the Cowboys are really invested in the long term and building a championship level team, they should at least explore the possibility of cutting their future Hall of Fame tight end. Sometimes, it is import to know when to move on. I have always believed in letting a player go one year too early rather than one year too late. This just may be a perfect example of that philosophy.