Dallas Cowboys: Is tight end no longer a need?

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

With the return of Jason Witten in 2019, the tight end position suddenly seems full on the Dallas Cowboys‘ roster. But is there still need there?

For fans of the Dallas Cowboys, the return of tight end Jason Witten seemed to initially be met with adulation. Tight end was clearly a need in Dallas before the news. And Witten’s return meant not only another chance for the future Hall of Famer to win a ring, but it helped fill that need as well.

But in the days that have followed, the reality of having a 36-year old tight end who has spent the past year in a broadcast booth has started to sink in. Although Witten was still able to record 63 receptions two years ago, he also posted only 560 yards, his lowest yardage total since his rookie season back in 2003.

When Witten retired, most believed he could still have a positive impactful but his career was certainly on a downslope. If anything, that sentiment has only grown as he’s now approaching 37-years old with more than a year away from playing competitive football.

Many seem to view Witten’s return as more of a coaching role than a player. But the veteran tight end hasn’t been that kind of mentor before, with several others wilting under his massive shadow in Dallas. Tights ends like Gavin Escobar, Martellus Bennett, John Phillips and Anthony Fasano have all come and gone. Yet, there is a belief this time will be different.

Witten, presumably wanting to become a coach someday soon, is expected to take young tight ends like Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz under his wing. Although there is been no evidence of that kind of commitment to development from him before.

The question remains. Is tight end still a need in Dallas? Obviously, Witten only signed a one-year contract. His presence is presumably as a bridge player, allowing the next starter to be groomed underneath him. As of right now, that player appears to be Jarwin. But certainly Schultz, as a 2018 fourth rounder, will be given more opportunities as well.

Despite having a full roster, will the Cowboys actually draft for the position come April? Here’s how Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com responded to a mailbag question recently concerning the team’s current needs at tight end.

"“The Cowboys simply aren’t going to rule out tight end in a deep class just because Witten signed for 2019. If a great prospect falls to them, they should consider it. They draft best when they’re true to their board. In my opinion, though, it seems less likely now that tight end is an early pick. Defensive line (edge or tackle) is easily the biggest need at the moment.”"

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The Dallas Cowboys have proven they will make draft selections based on the talent available, and not solely based on need. Just last year, the Cowboys’ first two draft selections were linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and offensive lineman Connor Williams. That’s despite the fact wide receiver seemed to be the bigger need. It seems Dallas will approach this upcoming draft the same way. If a talented tight end is the best player on their board when their number is called, the presence of Jason Witten will not hinder them from making that selection.