Jason Witten had caught at least 63 passes an incredible 14 years in a row. He's retired, so that's production that has to go to somebody else. Sure, they'll run the ball, and maybe force some passes into wide receivers, but there should also be a significant tight end. But who?
John Machota of the Dallas News SportsDay section thinks the team could employ a committee approach at tight end. Possible, I guess, but it's not like running back where you mix and match different styles or rotate to keep guys fresh. Somebody on the roster -- or not yet on the roster -- is going to emerge as the best option at tight end, and probably come into some fantasy value. Here are the options.
Dalton Schultz. The day after word came out that Witten would retire, the Cowboys selected Schultz in the fourth round. The Stanford product was primarily a blocker, though, catching a total of 55 passes and 5 TDs in 33 games. But those blocking chops will help get him on the field (in a lower-profile move, James Hanna also retired in the offseason; bad knees), and he's not a zero in the passing game; he can catch. Stanford has produced several NFL tight ends in recent years, from Zach Ertz (good!) to Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper (not so good). If I'm picking up a Dallas tight end in my dynasty league when the waiver wire opens, and I might be, Schultz is the one.
Rico Gathers. Gathers was on some dynasty rosters last year, a former sixth-round pick who flashed in the exhibitions, catching 7 balls for 106 yards and 2 TDs. But he suffered a concussion and neck injuries that cost him the entire season. He's recovered now, but obviously there's an injury concern, and it's hard to say with any confidence the team will send him out there for a huge role. The kind of guy who they might try in the slot for some snaps in the preseason, but not likely to be the main player at the position.
Blake Jarwin. A former undrafted free agent, Jarwin got some positive words recently; the coaches like him. So maybe. As a senior at Oklahoma State he caught 19 passes for 309 yards and 2 TDs, averaging 16.3 yards per catch. So maybe.
Geoff Swaim. A former seventh-round pick who's caught 9 passes in three seasons, Swaim already has pectoral, knee, and foot surgeries on his resume. Jason Witten he's not.
Of the in-house options, newcomer Schultz seems like the best bet, Jarwin and Gathers more flier types.
But there are free agents available. Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, former Cowboys like Anthony Fasano and John Phillips. Dallas could look at one of these older players if they don't like what they see out of the youngsters at minicamps.
Too much uncertainty, I think, to bet the farm on any of these guys. But if you're in a dynasty league with an open roster spot, Schultz seems like the most appropriate flier.