In the aftermath of so many offseason changes, is the tight end position the Dallas Cowboys’ weakest link as one ESPN analyst claims?
Following a disappointing 8-8 regular season campaign and a head coaching change, the Dallas Cowboys committed to looking radically different in 2020. The first domino to fall following the hiring of Mike McCarthy as head coach was a flurry of changes to the coaching staff. Next, came the roster.
With several big names like quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper scheduled to hit free agency, the Cowboys committed much of their salary cap space to retain both players. But doing so meant losing out on retaining several others.
Dallas saw the exodus of starters like cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end Robert Quinn, safety Jeff Heath, defensive tackle Maliek Collins, and wide receiver Randall Cobb. But one loss didn’t seem to sting as much as say losing a Pro Bowl-caliber corner like Jones or the team’s sack leader from last year in Quinn. And that’s the fact Jason Witten opted to move on and will not be wearing the Star on his helmet this upcoming season.
The future Hall of Fame tight end agreed to play for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 as the storied franchise makes their transition to Sin City. And Witten had some travel companions as both Heath and Collins will also be sporting black and silver this season.
Without Witten on the roster, a legend who posted a decent stat-line of 63 receptions for 529 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, you might expect the Cowboys to be hunting for a tight end early in the upcoming NFL draft.
But I’m not sure many fans agree with that take as Blake Jarwin has won his fair share of supporters over his first three seasons in Dallas. And the fact the fourth-year tight end agreed to a four-year extension last month seems to support that sentiment.
Undrafted out of Oklahoma State, Jarwin flashed his potential in the final regular-season matchup against the New York Giants back in 2018. Racking up seven catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns against their divisional rivals, many labeled the 25-year old as the heir to Witten’s throne.
Last year, Witten return to the Cowboys after spending the previous season retired and in the booth for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. He returned to the starting lineup despite concerns his presence would stunt Jarwin’s growth. But the opposite seemed to be true as the third-year tight end started in a career-high seven games and posted highs in both total catches and receiving yards.
Considering the increase in production despite playing second-fiddle to Witten, many fans see Jarwin as the future of the tight end position in Dallas. His presence seemingly mitigates Witten’s loss and secures that portion of the roster with former fourth-rounder Dalton Schultz and the newly-signed Blake Bell rounding out the depth chart.
But not everyone agrees with that assessment. Here’s what ESPN.com’s Mike Clay recently wrote about the Cowboys’ tight end position in an article in which he named Dallas as one of five NFL teams who are trending upwards.
"“Weakest link: Tight end — Dallas is pretty solid across the board, but we can pick on tight end a bit following the departure of Jason Witten. Blake Jarwin is a candidate for a leap, but he’s thus far been no more than a situational player through three pro seasons. Dalton Schultz and Blake Bell are his backups.”"
Whether the Dallas Cowboys’ weakest link is indeed the tight end position or not seems to be riding firmly on the shoulders of Blake Jarwin. If the fourth-year veteran is indeed ready to take the next step in his development and properly fill the shoes of Jason Witten in Dallas, I’d say the position has a bright future. If not, we might all be speculating as to whether the Cowboys will draft a top tight end prospect at this same time next year.