Dallas Cowboys: Is Rico Gathers time finally up?

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 14: Rico Gathers #80 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 14: Rico Gathers #80 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 14, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

After two lackluster seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, has project tight end Rico Gathers finally wore off his welcome in Big D?

When the Dallas Cowboys selected tight end Rico Gathers with the 217th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, they knew the pick would likely be hit or miss. Dallas took a chance on Gathers due to his freakish athletic ability and hoped they would be able to turn the former basketball standout into a football player.

When Dallas drafted Gathers he had not played organized football since middle school, so the Cowboys realized there would be some growing pains along the way. Gathers spent the 2017-2018 season on the Cowboys practice squad, where he learned more about the game of football and how to play the tight end position as a whole.

After future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten surprisingly announced his retirement in that following offseason, Dallas pegged Gathers as one of the players to help step in and fill the void Witten left. Gathers finally was able to crack the field in the regular season for the first time in 2018, appearing in four games and making a total of three catches for 45 yards.

In particular in an October matchup with the Houston Texans, Gathers made a very nice leaping catch on a play-action fake for a gain of 32 yards. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Gathers possesses athletic ability that people can only dream about, and it was on full display right there in Houston.

Despite that one nice play, Gathers really did not have a role in the Cowboys offense. They tried to throw him the ball in the red zone at times later in the season, but he and quarterback Dak Prescott never seemed to be able to get on the same page.

As Gathers enters his third NFL season, there is a real chance he could be left on the outside looking in come the end of training camp. Obviously, Jason Witten has returned to the team, and he will be the starter and take the majority of snaps at the tight end spot.

Dallas currently has four other tight ends on their roster, Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin, Codey McElroy and of course Gathers. Jarwin came on strong towards the end of the 2018 regular season, capping it off with a three-touchdown performance against the New York Giants. Schultz also performed better as the season went on, and became a viable option in the passing game especially on bootleg play action plays.

If the season started today, you would have to imagine Gathers would be the fourth tight end on the Dallas depth chart, and it remains to be seen if the Cowboys can afford to keep four tight ends once again. With Jarwin and Schultz’ potential, and Witten figuring to play about 80 percent or more of the snaps, it might be very tough for Gathers to find his way onto the Cowboys roster.

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New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could vogue for Gathers if he believes he can find a role for him in his offense, but it seems like the former Baylor basketball player is going to have a tough time sticking in Dallas for his third NFL season.