Dallas Cowboys: Is it time to finally move on from Jason Witten?

If Jason Witten decides to return for a 17th season, should it be for the Dallas Cowboys or is it time for them to finally move on from the veteran?

Let me be the first to say that I love Jason Witten. I’ll never forget the 2007 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when he rumbled for 30 additional yards while helmet-less after getting drilled following a catch. His toughness is something every future Dallas Cowboys player should aspire towards. But at 37-years-old, is it finally time for the veteran tight end and the Cowboys to part ways?

Witten actually had a fairly productive season in return from his brief retirement. He was eighth in the league among tight ends in receptions (64) and 14th in yards (529). His four touchdown catches also placed him in the middle of the pack at the position.

By all accounts, Witten had a pretty solid season. The biggest knock against the veteran, though, is his age. There’s a belief among some analysts that by keeping Witten on the roster, the Dallas Cowboys are preventing the growth of a younger player at the position.

Blake Jarwin, who’s set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, showed flashes of promise this season. In his third year with the team, the 25-year-old caught 31 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns — with limited playing time.

And that’s the potential problem with keeping a guy like Witten around. Younger, more athletic players lose out on key playing time. Sure, his veteran presence is appreciated in the locker room, but at what cost?

In today’s NFL, you need a dominant tight end capable of creating mismatches. Witten has proven he can still find the soft spot in a defense, but he’s no longer on the same level as, say, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz or George Kittle. He’s not going to single-handedly win you a ball game.

But that’s not to say he doesn’t still have value. If Witten is able to accept a somewhat reduced role in the offense and return on a team-friendly contract, I see no reason why the Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t try and bring him back for another season.

Dallas is entering a new era following the departure of Jason Garrett. It’s easy to sit back and say they should clean house and start fresh under new head coach Mike McCarthy.

But sometimes, with so much change happening around an organization, a little bit of stability can be a good thing. It may be beneficial for McCarthy to have someone with Witten’s passion and leadership presence to help with the transition of power.

With so many questions surrounding this roster heading into next year, Jason Witten is about the only sure thing. You know what you’re going to get with him at the tight end position, consistency and hard work.

Clearly, Jason Witten can still play — even if he’s no longer the same caliber player he once was.  It definitely feels like he’s still got love for the game, as evidenced by his visible frustration on the sideline at times season.

Dallas could easily bring him back for another season and it wouldn’t come at the expense of finding their future star tight end. Witten provides a sense of stability at the position. There’s a solid floor they’ll get with him. There’s no sense in having Dallas to go all-in on Blake Jarwin or an unproven rookie just yet. Assuming he’s willing to accept it, Witten can still excel in a more limited role with the team.

For what it’s worth, we don’t actually know if Jason Witten will be back for a 17th season. He was pretty noncommittal following his Week 17 postgame interview.

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It’s possible entirely possible he could make the decision easier for Jerry Jones by simply choosing to walk away from the game. Should he choose to keep playing, though, I do believe he could be an asset for the Dallas Cowboys.