Just one year removed from retirement, Jason Witten has decided to leave Monday Night Football to do what he was born to do, compete on the gridiron. The future Hall of Famer, second only to Tony Gonzalez in TE receptions and reception yards, will dust off his cleats for at least one more year with America’s Team.
The Dallas Cowboys have released the following statement from Witten, ” The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong. This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt”.
Witten will be 37 when the regular season starts for his 16th season. In 2017, Witten was a Pro Bowl selection with 63 catches for 560 yards and 5 touchdowns, starting all 16 games. His retirement after the season left the Cowboys with a question mark at the tight end position for the first time in 15 years.
The response was a tight end by committee with 4 tight ends, only one of which even had an NFL stat sheet prior to the 2018 season, in Geoff Swaim. All four tight ends (Gathers, Jarwin, Schultz, and Swaim) started at least 4 games in 2018, and combined had only 5 more receptions than Witten in 2017, and one less touchdown. With Geoff Swaim being an unrestricted free agent, and the other 3 salaries combined being less than $2 million for the 2019 season, it seems unlikely to see Swaim back in a Cowboys uniform.
The contract details for Witten have not been released yet, but he qualifies for a very cap friendly figure with veteran minimum benefits. The 2019 veteran minimum salary for players with 10 or more years of service is $1.03 million, with only about $650k of that counting against the cap. It is not known if this is the route that Witten and the Cowboys will go, or if he will be getting paid a salary closer to his $7.4 million salary for 2017. Seeing as he appears to be coming back more for a championship run rather than for money to pay off debts, the former seems much more likely.
Assuming that #82 is healthy and ready for another grueling NFL season, this will make the Cowboys offseason that much easier by being able to focus on other positions in free agency and also with the several looming contract extensions of Lawrence, Jones, Zeke, and Dak. This may also convince Sean Lee to make his 2019 salary more cap friendly for a team desperate for its first Super Bowl in 24 years.
Welcome back 82!
About the AuthorDoctor Matt is 1/2 of the Sports Over Served Podcast and skilled in the art of creative writing (according to his 3rd-grade English teacher). He also says he knows a thing or two about basketball, which qualifies him as our NBA Expert? Don't agree with Matt? Feel free to leave a comment!
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By Matt Robinson — 4 years ago
There have been many theories on why “America’s Team” has been average for the past two decades. Some have blamed Jerry Jones for the drought. Others point to the general manager (also Jerry Jones) for uncalculated free agent signings, poor drafting, and trying to create a team of big name ‘stars’ instead of building an actual TEAM. There are even some naysayers that believe the problem begins and ends at the quarterback position, including the much beloved Tony Romo. All of these reasons may have played a part, but the real reason resonates throughout every season since the glory days with The Triplets. The Dallas Cowboys head coaching since 1997 has been questionable, at best. Since Barry Switzer retired after the 1997 season, the Cowboys are 148-149 in the regular season and playoffs. While some may have been worse than others (Chan Gailey and Dave Campo), not one of the head coaches were impressive.
Let’s start with Bill Parcells, since the two preceding him were nothing more than placeholders. Parcells came into a situation when the cupboard was barer than any Cowboys roster since the 80’s. He had aging stars on the edge of retirement (Woodson and Allen) mixed with players that he got to perform well above their talent level (Coakley and Williams). This was Bill Parcells last head coaching job, and he treated it as such, by trying to build a team that another coach could come in and take back to the promised land. That included signing undrafted rookie Tony Romo to become the Cowboy’s first franchise quarterback since Troy Aikman. The problem was that Jerry Jones let that coordinator (Sean Payton) get away. Payton went on to become the head coach of the New Orleans Saints the year before Bill Parcells turned his job over to Wade Phillips. Wade was, and is, a great defensive coordinator, but as we’ve seen many times before, that does not always translate into being a great head coach. Wade’s job was made even harder since he most likely knew that his offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, was basically a head coach in waiting. Wade took the Cowboys to the playoffs a couple of times in his stint as head coach, but was not able to make it past the divisional round either time.
That brings us to the current head coach, Jason Garrett. He took over halfway through the 2010 season and is two games over .500 in that time. Not exactly a record that deserves the job security he seems to have with Jerry Jones. Jerry always seems to find an excuse for why Garrett failed, instead of demanding results in the face of adversity. While Garrett has a great football mind when it comes to X’s and O’s, that is where his coaching prowess ends. He possesses the skills needed to be a successful coordinator in the NFL, but falls short of those skills required to become a Super Bowl winning head coach.
Let’s look at the greatest example of an NFL head coach right now, Bill Belichik, and see how Garrett compares in three different areas. First, Belichik’s delegation is second to none, and the best way to exemplify this is by his coaching tree. He has produced seven NFL head coaches and seven NCAA Division I head coaches. One of those coaches was Nick Saban, who just so happened to be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins when Jason Garrett was the quarterbacks coach. That’s right, Belichik’s coaching tree is now so extensive, other trees are now growing off of it, and Garrett is a branch on one of those trees. While Garrett definitely has not had the tenure to grow the coaching tree Belichik has, by this time in his career Belichik had already promoted out Pat Hill to Fresno State and Nick Saban to Michigan State.
Second, Belichik’s in-game strategy makes Garrett look as if he learned how to game plan by playing Techmo Bowl. We could delve into the most specific and minute stats to see how Belichik makes more right decisions than Garrett, but the easiest is to look at how they react when their hands are tied by playing without their respective star quarterbacks. Since Brady became the starter, Belichik is 15-5 with his backup quarterback, a winning percentage only 1 percent lower than with Brady. Since Garrett took over as head coach of the Cowboys he is 7-14 without Romo as the starter, a whopping 26 percent lower winning percentage than with Romo. Basically, that means if Brady is out, the Patriots still have almost an equal shot at winning with Belichik, but if Romo is out the Cowboys are about half as likely to come away with a win with Garrett.
Finally, Belichik’s superiority over Garrett can be seen by the talent he can attract from around the league. From big free agents superstars like Darrelle Revis to proven talent in Chris Long to the Golden Boy himself, the Patriots can continually get cream of the crop talent for considerably less than they are worth on the open market. Not only do the Cowboys have to pay top dollar for free agents to come play for America’s Team, they could not even convince their All-Pro running back, Demarco Murray, to take even the slightest pay cut to stick around.
Being quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is one of the hardest positions in sports. It’s up there with playing Shortstop for the Yankees or Center for the Lakers, but the head coach in Dallas is no stress-free job either. Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson flourished in the role, while Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells were good within their own right. These coaches were used to the bright lights that come with being the head coach of America’s Team. Jason Garrett’s resume prior to the Cowboys is less than impressive, to say the least. To say he had never been in the spotlight before is an understatement. In fact, he was so far from the spotlight he couldn’t even cast a shadow. From quarterbacking Ivy League schools – to bouncing around in lesser professional leagues – to becoming a career NFL backup – to coaching in the NFL, Jason Garrett had never been a focal point of any meaningful organization. So the next time you see a ‘deer in the headlights’ look while watching a Cowboys news conference, or the next time you cringe at Garrett’s horrible game-management ability, try to keep in mind that he’s still adjusting his vision to the bright lights at The Star. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, he may also be the roadblock to a sixth championship ring.Views: 0
By Matt Robinson — 4 years ago
Talk around the water cooler with any Cowboy’s fan lately has been about Dak Prescott, and with good reason. In his first two preseason games, Dak is completing over 80% of his throws and has a QB rating just under perfect. This has Cowboy homers already visualizing Dak’s bust in Canton, and Cowboy/Romo haters saying Dak should be starting September 11th. If Dak were a stock, everyone and their mama would be taking out cash advance loans to buy shares. Thankfully, for Cowboys fans near and far, Dak is a backup quarterback, not a stock; because in about two weeks, the NASDAK is going to plummet. Not because these past two games have been a fluke, and Dak is about to be a bust, but because he will soon be an afterthought.
What these preseason games really mean:
Dak has won the position of backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. That is not nearly as glamorous a position as starting QB, where all eyes are on you and the pressure of the world is laid upon your shoulders every Sunday. Just ask Jason Garrett. Dak will be on the sidelines, with headphones in place of a helmet and a clipboard in hand. The interviews will slow, until they are almost non-existent, and Dak will start to understand how Aaron Rodgers felt for the first three years of his NFL career waiting behind a franchise quarterback for his turn to play. It’s somewhat ironic that it was Brett Favre, the quarterback who Tony Romo says he still looks up to.
When will Dak start?
Barring injury to Romo (knock on wood), Dak will only be seen in blowout games for the 2016 season. After that, it becomes a lot more difficult because of the business side of the NFL. This is the first year that Romo did not restructure his deal since 2012, and Romo’s contract is astronomically high (~$25 million) for the three seasons following. Jerry Jones is going to have to get creative again, and will most likely have to sell Romo on the idea of a pay cut. How these negotiations go will definitely have an effect on Dak’s career, considering a happy Romo will mean a great mentor for Dak’s tutelage. Look to see Dak start sometime during the 2018 season.
Cowboy’s draft grade for Dak:
A+. Calm down, I’m grading on a curve. The Cowboys have to be one of the worst franchises, if not the worst, at drafting quarterbacks in the last 25 years. Stephen McGee (4th round 2009), Isaiah Stanback (4th round 2007), Quincy Carter (2nd round 2001), and Bill Musgrave (4th round 1991) are the four QBs the Cowboys have drafted since taking Troy Aikman number one overall. Dak was not just a good draft pick, but this was also good timing. As seen with the Philadelphia Eagles this year, the draft can create animosity among the quarterbacks if the current quarterback plans to be playing beyond the incoming rookie’s contract. Dak and Romo’s contracts both expire at the end of the 2019 season.
For anyone thinking that Dak is going to walk into the starting role and play the way he has in the preseason, you’re wrong. Try to remember that these are preseason games that do not matter, therefore no one is playing 100%. That also means there is not the normal stress of an NFL game, with the worries of bad plays running through the quarterback’s head for the 48 hours before kickoff. It is almost common knowledge that the hardest position to play in sports is starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. You become a reality star, constantly on national news, with them trying to decide if you lost because you suck, or if your pop star girlfriend is bad luck. The tough minded can handle it, the others flame out and are never heard from again.
Dak seems to have what it takes to be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He led the Mississippi State Bulldogs to three straight winning seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football. As a 20-year-old sophomore, he lost his mom to cancer and came back to finish off the season strong and be named MVP of a bowl game. He’s shown that perseverance is his DNA, and that is something he will need under the bright lights at Jerry’s World. So, Dak, I can’t wait to see what you can do as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. On second thought, I can, for about 2-3 years.
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By Kevin Jones — 4 years ago
AMERICA’S TEAM AGAIN
This has been a very exciting year for Cowboy Nation. The Cowboys are 5-1 on the season, the offense is humming along like a well-oiled machine, and surprisingly, the make-shift defense hasn’t been too shabby either. “America’s Team” appears to be well on their way to actually earning the nickname after decades of habitual disappointment.
But what has been the root of their success? Well, unless you’re oblivious to all social media, it’s pretty clear that the bulk of the fan base gives credit to Dak Prescott for the Cowboys’ miraculous resurrection – which is not unwarranted. Dak has emerged as the clear future of the Dallas Cowboys, touting a passer rating of 103.9 with 1,486 yards and 7 touchdowns. What’s more impressive is that he takes care of the football, with only 1 interception (albeit 4 fumbles) through 6 games. He’s clearly a guy with a knack for managing football games and piling up the W’s, which is why football pundits and arm-chair quarterbacks across the nation are screaming at the top of their lungs: “Do NOT sideline the Dak-Attack for old-man-Romo!”
It didn’t take long for a majority of the football “experts” to abandon Tony at the train station and load up on the Dak-Express. Troy Aikman, Steven A. Smith, Phil Simms, Skip Bayless and even Brett Favre are all in favor of Romo donning a headset for the remainder of the year (just to name a few examples). But the sports-media giants are not the only publications chiming in on the debate… With the controversy garnishing nationwide attention, even publications like The Wall Street Journal have tried to capitalize on the hysteria by throwing their opinion into the mix.
WARNING: At this point in the article, I need to ask everyone to take a minute to relax and search for that happy, zen-like place in your mind. Why do we need to relax, you ask? Great question – thanks for asking! It’s because I’m about to step away from the Dak-mania crowd and go full Romo-sexual, which apparently is a very unpopular thing to do. According to recent polls, 78.35% of you have either 1) Renamed your dog (or son) after Dak Prescott, 2) Stopped listening to Carrie Underwood because she once dated Romo, or 3) Re-purposed your Romo jersey as floor mop – But please folks, try to remain calm. We’ve got some important facts to discuss…
Well guess what? The majority of the pundits are simply dead-wrong. Yes, that’s right – I’m talking like forecast from The Weather Channel kind-of-wrong. I mean, Skip Bayless once claimed Tim Tebow was going to take the Jets to a Super Bowl! Are you kidding me?
The problem is most sports commentators, much like stock market analysts, don’t really aim to be “right”. They only try to make the safest bet and avoid being “wrong”. For example, in early 2007, Blackberry, Ltd. was plowing through the competition in the telecommunications industry. The success of the Blackberry cell phone had led the company stock price from $2.00 in 2002 to $230 in 2007. Market analysts at the time declared the company was unstoppable and encouraged investors to continue “riding the wave”. Well, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a Blackberry in quite some time. Of course, Apple, Inc. released the iPhone in 2007 and quickly brushed Blackberry aside as they gained the bulk share of the cell phone industry. The analysts had been short-sighted and encouraged investors into what appeared to be the safe-bet due to the recent success of the stock. Hopefully you see where I am going with this. To be clear, I’m not saying that Dak is about to fall off into oblivion as Blackberry did – We’ve certainly found the future face of the franchise with Dak. I’m just pointing out that pundits and analysts are notoriously sheepish, and that the ability of the competition should be considered whether you’re making investment decisions or deciding which quarterback to start.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve got some real juevos, shares of Blackberry, Ltd. can currently be swiped up at the low, low price of around $7.00 a share…
Few people realize or give any credit to Tony’s actual accomplishments. In our “what have you done for me lately” society, fans and critics alike seem to dismiss his top-tier ability because he hasn’t been able to lead the Cowboys to new championships. But the stats can’t be ignored or pushed aside. When it comes to passer rating, Tony Romo comes in at 3rd on the list (All-Time). Yup, that’s 3rd in the entire history of the NFL, not just among active QB’s. Just to list a few names who fall below Tony: Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Ben Rothlisberger, etc, etc…
I can already hear the Romo-Haters now: “Oh wow [sarcasm], he’s 3rd all-time in passer rating, but Romo can’t seem to close out games, that’s why he’s a loser!” Well, the haters are incorrect once again because our boy Tony happens to hold the 2nd highest 4th Quarter Passer Rating OF ALL TIME. Again, that’s an all-time stat (see above list for QB’s who fall below him).
To be honest, Romo has significant standing in practically every major category of the all-time stats, but he never gets credit for his entire body of work – only the memorable losses seem to come to the minds of the pundits when they form their opinions.
2014 RING A BELL?
Probably one of the most over-looked reasons for starting Romo when he is fully healthy is due to the success the Cowboys had in 2014. With DeMarco Murray in 2014, the Cowboys were able to bruise their way into leading the league in time of possession (54.69%), which kept the mediocre defense off the field as much as possible. In 2016, the Cowboys have looked very similar with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, coming in at 2nd in the league in TOP (55%). This not only limits the vulnerability of our defense, but it significantly opens up the down-field passing game for the quarterback. Dak Prescott has been the biggest benefactor of this, and I firmly believe it’s one of the main reasons that he’s had success this year.
But Tony Romo has more capability to push the ball down-field in the passing game than Dak Prescott does. If there has been any “flaw” in Dak’s performances this year, it’s that he has preferred to check down to the third and fourth pass options and hasn’t really challenged the defensive backs that he’s faced. Dak may have gotten away with this during the first 6 games, but we’ve played some very mediocre teams with a 17-24 combined record – he won’t get away with that kind of strategy down the stretch or in the playoffs. With Romo at QB, he’d be able to stretch the defense down field which would create gaping holes more frequently for the run game. He did it in 2014 for DeMarco and he’ll do it again for Zeke, if afforded the opportunity.
Admittedly, Romo’s early playoff resume doesn’t exactly impress. As a matter of fact, one of the most common arguments I hear from Romo-haters is that “Tony is a choke-artist in the playoffs.” The “choke-artist” label for Romo first surfaced after he botched the snap on a game-winning field goal during the 2006 playoffs against the Seahawks. I can understand why this debacle would be permanently ingrained into the minds of the fan-base, and the Cowboys’ successive playoff appearances in ’07 and ’09 did little to restore his image either, but he certainly can’t shoulder all of the blame. The 2014 playoffs, however, are a much different story.
Every time I hear someone accuse Romo for the Cowboys’ quick exit from the 2014 playoffs, I have to question their knowledge of the game. After leading the ‘Boys to yet another 4th quarter comeback win against the Lions in the NFC Wildcard game, Romo was brilliant again against the Packers. He may have only thrown 19 passes, but he connected on 15 of them for 191 yards, 2 touchdowns and a Passer Rating of 143.6 (which is the 25th best PR in playoff history). Many will remember the game as the “Dez Bryant Catch/No-Catch” game, but the truth is, if DeMarco Murray had never fumbled in the 3rd quarter (leading to a Packers’ FG), or if the Dan Bailey field goal at the end of the 2nd quarter wasn’t blocked, the “Dez Bryant Catch/No-Catch” would have never even happened. Instead of going for it on that 4th and 2, the Cowboys would have just kicked a field goal for the win.
I understand that toying with the starting quarterback of a 5-1 (potentially 6-1) team is a scary proposition for any NFL fan base, but with how the league is shaping up this year, the Cowboys have a very real opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs and contend for their sixth Super Bowl ring. Dak has been outstanding, and he’s certainly solidified his role as the future of the franchise, but let’s not lose sight of the forest through the trees. This IS and ALWAYS HAS BEEN Tony Romo’s team.Views: 0