The end of an era for a sports legend is never fun to live through. Cowboys fans know that all too well after Dallas moved on from the beloved Tony Romo in favor of rookie Dak Prescott in 2016 following a back injury for Romo.
Even though the Romo wounds are still fresh and have yet to scar, it’s that time again for the Cowboys to address the vastly approaching end to Jason Witten’s Hall of Fame caliber career. The 15-year veteran has shown strides of slowing down, as any 15-year old veteran would, not named Tom Brady (sigh) or LeBron James.
It looked as if Fox and ESPN were looking to kickstart Witten’s retirement as the tight end was targeted to join their broadcast booths to call NFL games this season. But rejoice Cowboys fans, The Judge will be returning for his 16th season.
When you take a deep dive into Witten’s statistics over his career, it really is mind blowing. Forget being ranked 4th all-time in receptions, which is superlative in its own right. Out of the 240 possible regular season games throughout his career, guess how many Witten has missed; one. The answer is one. He signifies the heart and resilience any team leader should have and Cowboys fans have not taken this man for granted.
Let’s not forget, Week 9 in 2007 against arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles, this man got popped coming across the middle, lost his helmet, but continued trucking on like the renegade he is.
But, the saying is true; father time is undefeated. Though some players may slow down the hands on the clock, time continues to tick on your career. For Witten, he remains productive as a blocker and security blanket for Dak Prescott, but that may not be enough anymore.
For this offense to reach its full potential, the Cowboys need more fire power coming from the passing game. The chemistry between Dak and Dez Bryant has been documented as not the best. Not saying they don’t get along on a personal level, but on the field, there seems to be some sort of disconnect. Whether that is Dez’s lack of elite route running or Dak’s lack of accurate throws to #88; the divide is there.
Outside of Dez, Terrance Williams hasn’t performed up to the quality of a true #2 receiver and Cole Beasley can only do so much from the slot position. That’s where the tight end comes in. James Hanna has proven that he’s at best a situational tight end and Rico Gathers has yet to have the opportunity to show what he brings to the football field after transitioning from the basketball court.
In this offense, Dak loves to play the middle of the field which is where having a skilled target at tight end comes in handy. With Jason Witten and his illustrious career surely out the door in the next year or two, a successor must be drafted and groomed for when that time comes. But, who to draft? One name comes to mind.
Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
Though apart of the Missouri Valley with a strength of schedule that might not be against Power 5 talent, don’t let that steer you away from Goedert’s ability. The 6’5″ tight end snagged 164 receptions over the past two seasons with 2404 yards and 18 touchdowns. His speed and athleticism as a pass-catcher mirrors the play of Zach Ertz of the Eagles, as he has shown great hands with impressive one-handed grabs and spectacular catches in traffic. With Goedert’s size and strength, he can be molded into a solid blocker alongside the likes of Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith while also improving his route running fundamentals. Goedert is definitely an attractive prospect who can help stretch the offense, but the Cowboys might need to pull the trigger early on the senior tight end, as he is slated to go in the first two rounds.
Whether it is Goedert or another prospect in this year’s or next year’s draft, the Cowboys must secure themselves a new tight end to take the reins from a living legend. While a daunting task, a season learning under the man himself will help make the transition that much easier.
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