I want to touch briefly on the tight end situation here in Dallas, without too much beating a dead horse or ringing the bell any more on Jason Witten’s retirement.
To preface, it is important to note two major points. Firstly, we don’t really know yet what role the position is going to take on now that 82 has left the building. Additionally, with Doug Nussmeier making the move from Florida to become Dallas’ new tight ends coach this past February, we are primed for a fundamental change at the position.
Secondly, given Witten’s rather untimely retirement announcement, it seems that everyone was expecting more of a panicked response from the organization. Rather than a hasty response on day 2 of the draft, we find ourselves having a small laugh and wondering if the Jones family somehow found a way to catfish Philadelphia into taking Dallas Goedert in the second round. Dallas stood pat and did not respond until the next day, when Dalton Schultz was taken by the Cowboys in the fourth round. Schultz, given his track record at Stanford, doesn’t seem to possess the tools as a pass catcher to replace Witten, but can absolutely be used as an inside blocker for a run heavy offensive scheme such as Dallas’. Considering the lack of panic around the organization, it is worth considering that they may not be worried about replacing Witten’s production at all. Again, it is way too early to jump to conclusions about what the future of the position will be, but with the addition of Schultz and lack of a clear cut TE1, it isn’t a stretch to believe that Nussmeier and the rest of the offensive staff may be looking to retool the position to prioritize pocket protection for Prescott and more run blocking.
So, what does this mean for the future of Rico Gathers? It seemed that the organization was pretty high on him when he was drafted in 2016 out of Baylor. Because of his athleticism- and consequently, his potential as a red zone threat- he has the highest ceiling of the other TEs on the roster. However, Blake Jarwin’s effort and recent success in the past two offseasons has made things a lot less clear cut. Jarwin’s pedigree as a pass catcher at Oklahoma State and progress he has made as a blocker makes him Dallas’ best chance at developing a complete TE that can step in and fill the void that Witten and Hanna left. This leaves Gathers at a junction where he needs to step up and create a little competition for the starting role, or step back and allow Jarwin to develop as a starter.
Again, this is all really wide conjecture without really knowing what direction the Cowboys are wanting to go with the position. On the surface, it would appear that placing Jeff Swaim and perhaps Jarwin or Schultz in the starting positions and developing the position as one that prioritizes blocking for Dak and Zeke would be the most prudent move. Conversely, it would make for interesting headlines if Rico stepped up, created some drama on the TE depth chart and maybe even grew into the player that Dallas envisioned him becoming.
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