Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Needs: Tight end
By Matthew Postins
RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down the free agent needs at every position group for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s the tight ends.
Tight ends: Jason Witten (starter), James Hanna (backup), Gavin Escobar (backup).
Other notable players: Andre Smith (made team coming out of training camp but was later cut).
Cowboys tight ends entering free agency: None.
Free agency need?: 2 (out of 10, 10 being most pressing).
Why: The Cowboys probably feel pretty content at the position, even though second-round pick Gavin Escobar did not develop into near the weapon the Cowboys had hoped he would during his rookie year. Backup tight end James Hanna didn’t develop much either during his second season. In fact, the Cowboys might end up scrapping the whole concept, given how little it worked for them during the 2013 season. But at least the Cowboys have veteran Jason Witten, who continues to build on his potential Hall-of-Fame career. Witten’s ability and durability doesn’t leave many opportunities for others, frankly. All three players are under contract and a part of the Cowboys’ plans for 2014.
Possible Targets: If the Cowboys decide to bring in a tight end on a free-agent deal they’ll be looking for a blocker and not a pass-catcher. So forget about a player like Jimmy Graham. Rather, think of a player like Fred Davis, who can block and catch a few passes, as a potential template. Others to consider would be Andrew Quarless, Dante Rosario – whom the Cowboys invited to camp last year and later traded – and Ben Hartsock. Two intriguing veteran insurance policies could be Dallas Clark and Kellen Winslow, the latter of which is definitely a risk.
Looking ahead: The biggest issue facing this position group is the departure of tight ends coach Wes Phillips, who left the Cowboys to take the same job in Washington. Frankly, Phillips didn’t seem to have much impact on the position group in 2013. Witten doesn’t need much guidance, while the developments of both Escobar and Hanna never seemed to get off the ground. Phillips’ departure might be a blessing in that the Cowboys can turn their attention to finding a tight ends coach with a history of developing and nurturing young talent. If Escobar is the Cowboys’ succession plan at tight end, then getting the right tight ends coach this offseason is important.
Next up: Offensive line.